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Little Movement Expected For Hong Kong Shares

The Hong Kong stock market on Wednesday halted the four-day slide in which it had given away more than 670 points or 3 percent. The Hang Seng Index closed just above the 23,250-point plateau, and now analysts are predicting a narrow trading range when the market opens on Thursday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is mixed and flat, with a hint of weakness thanks largely to catalysts in Europe. The European Central Bank and the Bank of England both have rate decisions coming later today, although no moves are expected. Apprehension ahead of the upcoming Italian elections also may weigh. The European and U.S. markets were mixed but little changed, and the Asian bourses are expected to follow suit.

The Hang Seng finished modestly higher on Wednesday as gains from the financial shares and oil companies were dented by weakness from the property sector.

For the day, the index collected 108.40 points or 0.47 percent to finish at 23,256.93 after trading between 23,204.05 and 23,355.37 on volume of 74.78 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the actives, Wharf Holdings climbed 2.09 percent, while China Petroleum and Chemical (Sinopec) spiked 1.49 percent, HSBC jumped 1.11 percent, China Mobile gained 0.95 percent, Hang Seng Bank collected 2.01 percent, Sands China plummeted 5.22 percent, China Resources plunged 2.97 percent, New World Development lost 2.60 percent and Sun Hung Kai Properties shed 0.41 percent.

The lead from Wall Street provides little guidance as stocks were lackluster on Wednesday before closing roughly flat. Following big swings back and forth in the two previous sessions, traders seemed reluctant to make any significant moves.

Uncertainty about the financial situation in Europe helped to keep traders on the sidelines ahead of Thursday's monetary policy announcement from the European Central Bank. Along with the monetary policy meeting, the leaders of the European Union member states are due to hold a two-day meeting in Brussels beginning on Thursday.

Amid a lack of major U.S. economic data, traders also kept a close eye on the latest batch of earnings news. Shares of C.H. Robinson Worldwide (CHRW) moved sharply lower after the freight and shipping company reported fourth quarter earnings that missed estimates.

Insurance company Aflac (AFL) also posted a notable loss after reporting fourth quarter adjusted earnings that matched expectations but on weaker than expected revenues.

Meanwhile, shares of Zynga (ZNGA) moved sharply higher after the social gaming company reported an unexpected fourth quarter profit. The company also provided upbeat revenue guidance.

Disney (DIS) also moved to the upside after reporting first quarter earnings that fell year-over-year but came in above analyst estimates. The entertainment giant also reported better than expected revenue growth.

The major U.S. averages were mixed but little changed on Wednesday as the NASDAQ shed 3.10 points or 0.1 percent to finish at 3,168.48, while the Dow inched up 7.22 points or 0.1 percent to close at 13,986.52 and the S&P 500 crept up 0.83 points or 0.1 percent to end at 1,512.12.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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