The Hong Kong stock market has finished higher now in five straight trading days, surging more than 930 points or 5.1 percent in that span. The Hang Seng Index settled just above the 19,820-point plateau, although now investors figure to lock in gains when the market opens kicks off trade on Thursday.
The global forecast for the Asian markets is negative after the Federal Reserve offered a sobering assessment of the U.S economy but refrained from revealing any new stimulus measures. In addition, caution is likely ahead of policy decision later today from the European Central Bank and the Bank of England. Mixed earnings reports and weak euro-area manufacturing data add to the overall sentiment. The European markets were mixed and the U.S. bourses were down - and the Asian markets figure to split the difference.
The Hang Seng finished barely higher on Wednesday, nudged higher by gains from the financial shares and casino operators.
For the day, the index added 23.57 points or 0.1 percent to finish at 19,820.38 after trading between 19,646.96 and 19,898.92 on volume of 52.98 billion Hong Kong dollars.
Among the gainers, Lenovo surged 6.9 percent, while Industrial and Commercial Bank of China climbed 1.6 percent, China Construction Bank collected 0.8 percent, Wynn Macau spiked 4.4 percent and SJM Holdings jumped 3.7 percent.
The lead from Wall Street suggests consolidation as stocks ended Wednesday's trading mostly lower following the Federal Reserve's monetary policy announcement. Selling pressure was relatively subdued, however, limiting the downside for the markets.
The central bank offered a sobering assessment of the U.S economy but refrained from revealing any new stimulus measures. The Fed noted that economic activity decelerated over the first half of the year and predicted that economic growth would remain moderate over the coming quarters.
The central bank kept interest rates unchanged at near-zero levels and reiterated that rates are likely to remain at exceptionally low levels at least through late 2014. While the Fed also said it will closely monitor incoming data and will provide additional accommodation as needed, it did not offer any new measures following last month's extension of Operation Twist.
In failing to take aggressive action to prop up the slowing economy, analysts say the Fed is preserving ammunition to combat potential headwinds that may arise out of Europe's sovereign debt crisis.
Traders largely shrugged off a mixed batch of U.S. economic data that was released earlier in the day. While payroll processor ADP reported much stronger than expected private sector job growth in the month of July, the Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index continued to point to a contraction in manufacturing activity for the month.
The major U.S. averages closed lower on Wednesday as the Dow fell 32.55 points or 0.3 percent to finish at 12,976.13, while the NASDAQ dropped 19.31 points or 0.7 percent to end at 2,920.21 and the S&P 500 slid 4.00 points or 0.3 percent to 1,375.32.
In economic news, China's manufacturing activity growth eased for the third consecutive month in July as new orders continued to shrink due to weak global demand, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said on Wednesday. The purchasing managers' index for the manufacturing sector fell to 50.1 in July from 50.2 in June against expectations for 50.5. A reading above 50 indicates expansion of the sector, while below 50 is contraction.
A separate survey by Markit Economics and HSBC continued to show contraction in manufacturing activity in July, albeit at a slower pace. The Markit/HSBC manufacturing PMI was at 49.3 in July, compared to June's reading of 48.2.
by RTT Staff Writer
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