Sun, Dec 21, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Asian stocks rise, led by companies with global focus

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Asian stocks rose this week, led by companies that rely on global growth such as JFE Holdings Inc and Halla Climate Control Corp, after US and regional economic reports lifted optimism about the prospects for profit.

"Next year will see synchronized global growth for the first time since 2000," said Geoff Lewis, financial services manager in Hong Kong at JF Asset Management Ltd, a unit of JP Morgan Fleming Asset Management Inc with US$520 billion in assets. "The US recovery looks assured, with both Japan and Asia benefiting from increased exports to the US and China."

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, which tracks more than 800 stocks in the region, rose 0.6 percent to 84.09, its third weekly gain in four. The index is on course for its first annual advance in four years.

Both Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average and the Topix index rose for the fourth week in five, adding 1.3 percent and 1 percent, respectively. South Korea's Kospi index advanced 0.6 percent, its second weekly gain, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.6 percent.

Benchmarks in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong all declined for the week.

China Life Insurance Co, which raised US$3 billion in this year's biggest initial public offering, soared 26 percent in the two trading days since its debut in Hong Kong on Thursday after investors ordered more than US$80 billion of the stock.

In the US, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 1.4 percent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 2.4 percent. Both indexes gained for a fourth straight week. The NASDAQ Composite Index rose 0.1 percent for the week.

JFE, Japan's biggest steelmaker by market value, jumped 11 percent to ?2,750. Nippon Seisen Co, which makes stainless steel wire, surged 14 percent to ?295. The Topix Iron and Steel Index rose 4.1 percent this week.

Australia's WMC Resources Ltd, the world's third-largest nickel miner, added 6.9 percent to A$5.38 this week. Pacific Metals Ltd, Japan's second-biggest nickel producer, advanced 11 percent to ?549.

Nickel, which is used to make stainless steel, soared 10 percent this week and is trading at a 14-year high. Prices may continue to gain through 2005, Inco Ltd, the world's No. 2 producer, said this month. Global economic growth, rising use of the metal in China and mine production that hasn't kept pace with demand may boost prices further, it said.

Meanwhile, an index of manufacturing in the Philadelphia area climbed to its highest level in a decade this month, while the index of leading US economic indicators rose last month.

Americans filing first-time applications for state jobless benefits fell to 353,000 last week, matching an almost three year low, the Labor Department said. Economists expected 365,000 claims, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

In Hong Kong, the jobless rate fell to 7.5 percent last month from 8 percent in October, the government said Thursday.

That's the lowest since March and less than the 7.8 percent median forecast of 11 economists in a Bloomberg survey.

South Korea's Halla Climate, a maker of automotive air conditioner parts for DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Co and Mazda Motor Corp, climbed 9 percent this week to 105,500 won, its highest in seven years.

Toyota Motor Corp, the world's third-largest automaker, added 2.3 percent to ?3,640 for the week, pacing a gain in Asian carmakers. Toyota has raised its vehicle sales forecasts in North America, Europe and Japan, saying all annual earnings numbers will be at record levels.

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