Stocks in India finally took a breather on Thursday after trading higher for three straight days. Investors in the Far East squared up positions ahead of the annual budget set to be released by Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram on Friday morning. This will be the last full budget report Indian investors will see before the start of general elections in May 2009.

An economic report released by the Indian government Thursday forecasted India's gross domestic product to grow at 8.7% -- slightly higher than the Reserve Bank of India's projection of 8.5%. The report highlighted the U.S. economic slowdown.

"There are several challenges to inclusive growth-agriculture, infrastructure, education and skill development," said Chidambaram to local reports. "Keeping inflation under control in an uncertain global environment will be one of the major challenges in 2008-09."

The Bombay Stock Exchange 30-share benchmark Sensex Index closed flat, down just 1.5 points at 17,824.48.

Speculation of a land sale involving

Tata Communications

( TCL) is making the rounds on Wall Street Thursday. Jay Somaney a

contributor said he is hearing from his sources that the government of India has approved an auction involving a land bank held by Tata. Shares of Tata Communications closed up 0.4% at $25.60.

Technology firm


( SAY) is reported to be in talks for eight to nine domestic deals that range in size from $25 million to $50 million, according to

The Financial Express

. Satyam and


(INFY) - Get Report

are also reported to be vying for a large IT outsourcing deal with the Indian Railways, according to

. Shares of Satyam fell 0.9% to $26.67, and Infosys fell 2.6% to $40.92.

Leading the decliners among the Indian ADRs were


(IBN) - Get Report

, trading off by 3.3% to $53.88, information technology firm


(WIT) - Get Report

, falling 2.9% to $11.94, and


(HDB) - Get Report

, dropping 2.6% to $113.28.

Be sure to check out the

Far East Portfolio

at every night to find out which stocks in India and China are making big moves and announcing major news.

India Recap

China's economic growth will cool off to 10.5% for the first quarter from 11.2% in the previous quarter, according to a report in the

China Securities Journal

. The slow down in growth was blamed on the recent crippling snowstorms, but many economists also feel the U.S. economic slowdown is contributing to global market weakness. The

China Securities Journal

also reported that consumer inflation is projected to hit 6.9% for the first quarter of 2008, up from 6.6% for the fourth quarter of 2007.

The rise in inflation brought out some strong opinions from a leading economic think tank in the region. The State Information Center (SIC) issued a statement saying, "interest rate hikes aren't the proper way to address rising inflation because higher rates could have a negative impact on the stock market. Asian markets finished mixed Thursday with Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advancing 0.4% to 24,591.69 and China's Shanghai Composite Index closing down 0.8% to 1,736.17.

Shanghai-based online travel operator

(CTRP) - Get Report

exploded 14% higher Wednesday after the company reported over 100% growth in net profits for the fourth quarter. The stock closed up $7.69 at $62.25 on over 3 times the average trading volume.

Another Chinese Internet ADR earnings winner was online financial information provider

China Finance Online

(JRJC) - Get Report

. China Finance Online reported a 22% rise in fourth-quarter net revenue and guided 2008 net revenue to be in the range of $54 million to $64 million, vs. previous guidance of $50 million to $60 million. Shares of China Finance Online moved up $1.04, or 6%, to $18.05 in after-hours trading.

In the health-care sector, Chinese medical device company

China Medical Technologies

( CMED) failed to impress Wall Street with its 2008 revenue guidance. The company said full-year revenue would come in between $117.9 million and $121.2 million, vs. Wall Street estimates of $125.61 million. Short-sellers, who represent 5% of the stock's float, were the winners after China Medical shares closed down 1.7% at $54.51.

Speculation surrounds Chinese search engine provider

(BIDU) - Get Report

after a


report said the firm might have acquired Web browser Maxthon. Baidu was also hit with a lawsuit from two industry groups for musicians and songwriters in China. The suit accuses Baidu of copyright violations for allowing users to listen to songs for free, according to


. Baidu fell 5% to $253.

Leading the decliners among the Chinese ADRs Thursday were semiconductor company

Spreadtrum Communications


, trading down 8% to $7.09, wireless communications provider

China Telecom

(CHA) - Get Report

, down 4% to $76.10, and cellular business firm

China Unicom

(CHU) - Get Report

, down 4% to $22.58.

Be sure to check out the

Far East Portfolio

at every night to find out which stocks in India and China are making big moves and announcing major news.

For more on Asia, check out

Daniel Harrison's coverage



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