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South Korea Stock Market May Halt Losing Streak

The South Korea stock market has closed lower now in five consecutive trading days, falling more than 40 points or 2 percent along the way. The KOSPI finished just above the 1,960-point plateau, and now investors are expecting a positive bounce when the market opens on Thursday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is positive following upbeat commentary from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The Fed left interest rates at near-zero levels and also noted that further easing was a possibility, if conditions warranted. The European and U.S. markets finished firmly higher, and the Asian bourses are expected to follow that lead.

The KOSPI finished barely lower on Wednesday as gains from the technology stocks were wiped out by selling from the construction sector.

For the day, the index eased 1.44 points or 0.07 percent to finish at 1,961.98 after trading between 1,961.97 and 1,980.51 on volume of 4.94 trillion won. There were 534 decliners and 205 gainers.

Among the actives, Samsung Electronics jumped 1.7 percent, while LG Display spiked 1.9 percent, Kia Motors added 0.8 percent, Hankook Tire surged 3.1 percent, Samsung Engineering plummeted 6.1 percent and GS Construction plunged 6.3 percent.

The lead from Wall Street is solid as stocks saw significant strength on Wednesday, with traders reacting positively to better than expected quarterly results from tech giant Apple (AAPL). The markets continued to perform well following the Federal Reserve's monetary policy announcement.

The strong upward move followed upbeat earnings news from Apple, the world's largest publicly-traded company by market capitalization. After the close of trading on Tuesday, Apple reported second quarter earnings of $12.30 per share, higher than $6.40 per share last year, while revenues jumped 59 percent to $39.2 billion.

Stocks saw continued strength following the Federal Reserve's monetary policy statement, which was largely unchanged from the previous statement. The Fed left interest rates at near-zero levels and reiterated that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014.

Additionally, the central bank said it now expects GDP to increase by 2.4 to 2.9 percent in 2012 compared to its previous forecast for 2.2 to 2.7 percent growth. Fed Chairman Bernanke assured that all policy tools remain at the Fed's disposal, but analysts say the Fed's optimistic outlook takes additional asset purchases off the table barring a turn for the worse for the economy.

Meanwhile, traders shrugged off a report from the Commerce Department showing that durable goods orders tumbled by 4.2 percent in March following a revised 1.9 percent increase in February. Economists had expected a drop of about 1.5 percent.

After moving sharply higher in early trading, the major averages hovered firmly in positive territory throughout the day. The Dow rose 89.16 points or 0.7 percent to finish at 13,090.72, while the NASDAQ surged up 68.03 points or 2.3 percent to end at 3,029.63 and the S&P 500 climbed 18.72 points or 1.4 percent to 1,390.69.

In economic news, consumer confidence index rose to 104 in April from 101 in March, the Bank of Korea said on Wednesday - marking the highest score since last May. Confidence rose for a third straight month.

The indicator assessing the consumer sentiment on their current living standards rose three points to 87, and that concerning the outlook was also up 3 points to 97.

Consumer sentiment regarding current general economic conditions rose by 7 points to 77. The indicator measuring households' expectations for the economy increased 8 points to 90.

On the corporate front, LG Electronics swung to a profit of 243 billion won in the first quarter of 2012, compared with a loss of $16 billion won a year ago, the company said on Wednesday. Net income before tax surged to 450 billion won from 39 billion won in the comparable period last year.

However, quarterly sales dropped to 12.23 trillion won from the prior-year quarter's 13.16 trillion won. Profit at LG's home-entertainment division was boosted by sales of high-end TVs featuring 3-D screens and Web-based services.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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