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Taiwan Shares May Be Stuck In Neutral

Separated by an 11-day break for the Lunar New Year holiday, the Taiwan stock market has moved higher in back-to-back sessions - rising almost 60 points or 0.7 percent along the way. The Taiwan Stock Exchange settled just above the 7,940-point plateau, and now traders may be tempted to lock in gains on Tuesday ahead of resistance at 8,000 points.

The Asian stock markets are looking at a mixed and flat lead on Tuesday, fairly devoid of leads with no major economic activity. In addition, the markets in the United States were shut down on Monday for Presidents Day. There was some mixed earnings news out of the U.S. in the health care sector, but nothing to offer clear guidance. The European markets were mixed but little changed, and the Asian bourses are expected to follow that lead.

The TSE finished modestly higher on Monday as gains from the technology, finance, construction, cement, paper and textile stocks were dented by weakness from the Food and plastic sectors.

For the day, the index collected 36.88 points or 0.46 percent to finish at 7,943.53 after trading between 8,005.73 and 7,927.95 on turnover of 95.52 billion Taiwan dollars. There were 2,732 decliners and 1,792 gainers, with 323 stocks finishing unchanged.

Among the actives, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. spiked 1.9 percent to fuel the gainers.

There is no lead from Wall Street and little economic data upon which to draw direction.

On the earnings front, pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts Holding Co. (ESRX) on Monday reported net income for the fourth quarter of $504.1 million or $0.61 per share, compared to $290.4 million or $0.59 per share a year earlier. Excluding items, adjusted earnings from continuing operations for the fourth quarter were $1.05 per share, compared to $0.82 per last year.

HealthSouth Corp. (HLS) saw a decline in profit for the fourth quarter despite growth in revenues, as income tax expense increased from last year - although the company's earnings and revenues beat expectations. HealthSouth's net income attributable to shareholders dropped to $41.2 million or $0.44 per share from $43.5 million or $0.46 per share last year.

Merge Healthcare Inc. (MRGE) reported a net Q4 loss of $17.3 million or $0.19 per share, compared to a net loss of $1.3 million or $0.01 per share last year. Excluding items, adjusted net loss for the fourth quarter was $11.6 million or $0.13 per share, compared to adjusted net income of $4.2 million or $0.04 per share last year.

The major European markets were mixed on Monday as the DAX of Germany added 0.46 percent to finish at 7,628.73 and the CAC 40 of France collected 0.18 percent to end at 3,667.04. But London's FTSE slipped 0.14 percent to close at 6,318.19 and the Swiss market eased 0.04 percent to end at 7,497.23.

by RTT Staff Writer

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