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Hong Kong Stock Market May Challenge 21,000-Point Mark

The Hong Kong stock market has alternated between positive and negative finishes through the last four trading days since the end of the three-day winning streak in which it had climbed more than 450 points or 2.1 percent. The Hang Seng Index finished just above the 20,800-point plateau, and now investors are anticipating continued gains when the market kicks off trade on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets suggests mild upside following solid earnings news and U.S. economic data. After the bell, online retailer Amazon.com saw quarterly earnings per share breeze past Wall Street expectations, as did its quarterly sales. Earnings from Tyco International and computer chip maker Xilinx also beat forecasts. In addition, data showed that pending home rose in March. The European markets were mixed and the U.S. bourses were higher - and the Asian markets figure to split the difference.

The Hang Seng finished modestly higher on Thursday following gains from the property stocks and telecoms.

For the day, the index climbed 163.42 points or 0.8 percent to finish at 20,809.71 after trading between 20,674.94 and 20,826.91 on volume of 44.45 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the gainers, China Unicom spiked 4.0 percent, while China Overseas Land jumped 2.0 percent, China Resources Land climbed 1.5 percent, Ping An collected 2.5 percent and China Life gathered 1.5 percent.

The lead from Wall Street is upbeat as stocks moved higher on Thursday, adding the gains posted in the previous session. The markets benefited from upbeat housing data, which helped to overshadow another disappointing jobs report.

The National Association of Realtors showed a much bigger than expected increase in pending home sales in March. Calling the data another signal that the housing market is recovering, NAR said its pending home sales index rose by 4.1 percent in March following a revised 0.4 percent increase in February. Economists had expected a much more modest 1.0 percent increase.

On the other hand, the Labor Department reported a smaller than expected drop in initial jobless claims in the week ended April 21. Jobless claims edged down to 388,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 389,000 versus expectations for a fall to 375,000 from the 386,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Traders also digested the latest batch of earnings news, with share of Xilinx (XLNX) rising by 6.8 percent after the programmable computer chip maker reported better than expected fourth quarter results and provided upbeat first quarter revenue guidance. Tyco International (TYC) also ended the day higher after reporting second quarter results that exceeded analyst estimates.

In contrast, UPS (UPS) fell by 1.8 percent after the delivery giant reported first quarter earnings that rose year-over-year but came in below analyst estimates. Shares of Exxon Mobil (XOM) also closed in the red after the oil giant reported first quarter earnings that fell by more than analysts had anticipated.

The major averages pulled back off their best levels going into the close but still ended the day firmly positive. The Dow rose 113.90 points or 0.9 percent to finish at 13,204.62, while the NASDAQ climbed 20.98 points or 0.7 percent to end at 3,050.61 and the S&P 500 added 9.29 points or 0.7 percent to 1,399.98.

In corporate news, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) on Thursday reported a 35 percent decline in earnings for the first quarter, as lower margins offset a double-digit rise in revenues. Profit attributable to shareholders was 13.4 billion renminbi or 0.153 renminbi per share, compared to 20.6 billion renminbi or 0.236 renminbi per share last year. Revenues for the quarter totaled 641.4 billion renminbi, an increase of 14 percent on year.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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