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Hong Kong Stocks May Extend Gains

The Hong Kong stock market has moved higher now in three straight sessions, collecting more than 260 points or 1.1 percent in that span. The Hang Seng Index closed just below the 23,445-point plateau, and now analysts are predicting further upside when the market opens on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is cautiously optimistic thanks to the results of the weekend's G20 meeting. Bargain hunting also may play a role after many of the regional bourses saw selling pressure last week. While nothing earth-shattering came out of the G20 gathering in Russia, the group did pledge to strengthen financial stability and promote sustainable growth, while also reaffirming their commitment to refrain from competitive devaluation. The European and U.S. markets were mixed on Friday, and the Asian markets are tipped to follow suit on Monday.

The Hang Seng closed slightly higher on Friday as gains from the resource stocks were offset by weakness from the property sector.

For the day, the index added 31.31 points or 0.13 percent to finish at 23,444.56 after trading between 23,284.05 and 23,446.77 on turnover of 46.67 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Among the actives, China Life climbed 1.64 percent, while Sands China spiked 2.74 percent, China Resources Land jumped 2.05 percent, China Overseas Land added 1.55 percent, China Petroleum and Chemical (Sinopec) advanced 1.16 percent, Cheung Kong shed 0.32 percent, Wharf Holdings lost 0.73 percent, Sun Hung Kai Properties fell 0.40 percent and Sino Land dipped 0.70 percent.

The lead from Wall Street is inconclusive as stocks saw volatility on Friday before ending the session with another lackluster performance. The major averages closed on opposite sides of the unchanged line for the fourth consecutive day.

The choppy trading came as traders remained uncertain about the near-term outlook for the markets after recent gains lifted the major averages to multi-year highs. A mixed back of economic data also contributed to the lackluster performance, with traders weighing upbeat reports on New York manufacturing activity and consumer sentiment against a disappointing report on industrial production.

The New York Federal Reserve said its general business conditions index jumped to a positive 10.0 in February from a negative 7.8 in January, with a positive reading indicating an increase in regional manufacturing activity. Economists had expected the index to climb to a negative 1.8. With the increase, the index turned positive for the first time since July 2012.

Reuters and the University of Michigan also released their report on consumer sentiment for February, showing that the sentiment index climbed to 76.3 from January's final reading of 73.8 - topping forecasts for 75.0.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve said industrial production eased 0.1 percent in January following a revised 0.4 percent increase in December. Economists had expected an increase of 0.3 percent, matching the growth originally reported for the previous month.

However, troubling news regarding Wal-Mart (WMT) generated considerable selling pressure in mid-afternoon trading, with the retail giant ending the day down by 2.2 percent. The loss followed reports based on internal emails suggested that the payroll tax increase is having a significant negative impact on February sales.

The major U.S. averages were mixed again on Friday as the Dow added 8.37 points or 0.1 percent to finish at 13,981.76, while the NASDAQ slipped 6.63 points or 0.2 percent to close at 3,192.03 and the S&P 500 edged down 1.59 points or 0.1 percent to end at 1,519.79. The averages were mixed for the week as the S&P 500 inched up 0.1 percent, while the Dow and the NASDAQ both dipped by 0.1 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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