Taiwan's economic confidence picks up in February

Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) Public confidence in Taiwan's economy continued to improve in February, with people showing more optimism toward the stock, housing and job markets, according to the results of a monthly survey conducted by Cathay Financial Holding Co. The survey revealed that people's views of the current economic conditions rose to 3.9, the first positive reading recorded since April 2012. On the outlook for the stock market, 41.5 percent of respondents predicted that the Taiwan Stock Exchange's benchmark index would range between 7,800 and 8,000 in the first half of this year, while 3 percent forecast a level of above 8,400. The stock index closed at 7,960.88 Tuesday. The public's preference for risk-weighted assets moved up to -6.9, the highest level since a government plan to impose a capital gains tax on stock transactions was unveiled in April 2012. Confidence in home purchases increased to -45.5, the highest level since the survey was launched in March 2010. Confidence in the job market, meanwhile, jumped to -17.4, up from -25.1 in January. The survey was conducted Feb. 1-7 among 16,521 clients of Cathay Life Insurance and Cathay United Bank. (By Tien Yu-pin and Y.F. Low)