Sun, Nov 30, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Japan's Topix has monthly decline

ECONOMIC RECOVERY?Asian indexes slid as the US currency continued to fall against the yen, while South Korea's Kospi had its second-straight monthly advance


Japanese stocks fell in November, sending the Topix index to its first monthly drop since March, on concern a US-led economic recovery isn't feeding domestic growth as much as anticipated.

Kumagai Gumi Co, a building company, led the decline.

NEC Corp and Nikon Corp sank as the dollar slid against the yen, threatening to cut the value of their overseas sales.

The Topix shed 0.6 percent to 999.75 yesterday, taking its monthly drop to 4.2 percent. Reports Friday showed Japan's industrial production growth slowed last month, the rate of unemployment rose and household spending fell.

The "recovery isn't going to be as robust as some had anticipated, tempering some optimism for stocks," said Kanji Sakae, who helps oversee the equivalent of US$60 billion at Nissay Asset Management Corp in Tokyo.

Elsewhere in the region, South Korea's Kospi index had its second straight monthly advance, led by Hyundai Motor Co.

A report Friday showed South Korean factory production rose more than expected last month as manufacturers made more cars, computers and cellphones to meet record overseas demand.

The Morgan Stanley Capital International Index Asia Pacific Index, which includes more than 800 companies in the region, shed 2.3 percent this month, its first monthly slide in eight.

Benchmarks in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Thailand and India rose for the month.

In Taiwan, Australia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, indexes declined.

South Korea's LG Card Co, the nation's biggest credit card company, was the region's worst performing stock, slumping by two-fifths on concern that a 2 trillion won (US$1.7 billion) loan won't be sufficient to keep it in business.

In the US for November, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 0.7 percent, for its eighth monthly gain in nine. The NASDAQ Composite Index rose 1.5 percent, its ninth advance in 10 months.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.2 percent.

Japan's Ashikaga Financial Group Inc, the biggest bank in Japan's Tochigi Prefecture, slumped 28 percent yesterday after the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported it may need a more than ?1 trillion (US$9.1 billion) bailout.

The Japanese government will hold an emergency meeting this weekend to decide on the terms of the bailout, Nikkei English News reported, without saying where it obtained the information.

Japanese building companies led declines in November amid a prolonged slump in demand for construction projects.

Kumagai Gumi, Japan's sixth-largest publicly traded builder, slumped 22 percent, and led a 19 percent decline by the Topix construction sub-index.

The outlook for the nation's construction industry prompted Kumagai Gumi this week to announce a merger with smaller Tobishima Corp.

The plan comes as Japan's government prepares to further cut spending on roads and bridges, while a weak economy continues to sap investment in new office buildings and homes.

The slump has left Kumagai Gumi and other contractors dependent on bank credit to stay in business, because they are unable to repay debts amassed in the 1980s.

Japanese exporters also fell amid concern the dollar may fall more against the yen after slipping from as much as ?111 per dollar at the start of the month to ?109.50.

NEC, which gets about 30 percent of its sales overseas, slumped 18 percent. The company said this week it plans to sell ?197 billion of shares to invest in equipment and pay debt.

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