Sun, Nov 23, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Asian indexes fall; NEC paces decline

DERAILED GROWTH As with other markets, fears of terrorist strikes against the US and its allies depressed Asian traders this week, leaving analysts pessimistic


Asian stocks slid this week, with the region's benchmark posting its biggest drop in a month, on concern that terrorism will derail global economic growth. NEC Corp and Samsung Electronics Co led the week's decline.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, which tracks more than 800 stocks in the region, shed 3.4 percent for the week, its largest slide since the five days ended Oct. 24. Bombs blasts killed at least 27 people in Istanbul yesterday, following media reports earlier this week that al-Qaeda would start attacks on US allies, including the UK, Australia and Japan.

Terrorism "hurts market sentiment because it is a risk that investors can't anticipate," said Nobuki Goto, who helps manage the equivalent of US$14 billion at Tokio Marine Asset Management Co in Tokyo. "In the short term, that's likely to hurt exporters."

Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 3.1 percent to 9852.83, completing its biggest back-to-back weekly decline since the four weeks ended March 14. South Korea's Kospi index slumped 4.8 percent, the biggest slide in a month.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index shed 3 percent, its biggest decline since the period ended March 28. Singapore's Straits Times Index lost 4.7 percent, heading for its biggest slide in 10 months. Thailand's SET Index was the biggest weekly decliner in the region, down 7.2 percent.

All major stock benchmarks in Asia fell this week, apart from indexes in China, New Zealand and Indonesia.

The Nikkei lost 7.3 percent in the past two weeks, while the Topix dropped 6.8 percent.

NEC, which gets about 30 percent of its sales overseas, slid 11 percent to ?789. Japan's largest maker of personal computers on Friday said it will sell ?197 billion (US$1.8 billion) of shares to invest in equipment and pay debt, in what would be the nation's biggest stock sale this fiscal year.

Samsung Electronics, which gets about a fifth of its sales from exports, fell 6.3 percent for the week to 36,450 won. Hyundai Motor Co, South Korea's largest automaker slid 6.2 percent to 42,500 won this week. It ships more than half of its vehicles overseas.

LG Card Co, South Korea's largest credit card issuer, plunged 32 percent to 8,900 won. LG Group, its parent company, asked lenders to provide 2 trillion won (US$1.7 billion) to bail out LG Card on Tuesday. The Kospi had its biggest weekly decline since the week ended Sept. 26.

HSBC Holdings Plc, the world's second-biggest bank by market value, shed 2.5 percent to HK$115.50 in Hong Kong this week.

The attacks in Istanbul yesterday, the second in less than a week in Turkey, killed British Consul General Roger Short and some HSBC employees. Al-Qaeda and a Turkish group known as the Great Islamic Eastern Raiders Front claimed responsibility.

Al-Qaeda said it would target Japan if it sent the Japanese Self Defense Force to join the US-led coalition in Iraq, according to Al-Quds al-Arabi, a London-based newspaper, earlier in the week.

Japan Airlines System Corp, Singapore Airlines Ltd and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd paced a 3.9 percent slide in the Bloomberg Asia Pacific Travel Index this week on concern terrorist threats will crimp demand for travel.

Japan Airlines, Asia's largest carrier, lost 10 percent to ?283 for the week. Singapore Airlines, which has four flights to Istanbul a week, fell 4.9 percent to S$11.70. Cathay, Hong Kong's biggest airline, shed 4.1 percent to HK$14.

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