Sun, Nov 21, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Asian markets listless despite positive outlook

RISK Although foreign investors continue to put money into the region's markets, the flow of capital could just as easily reverse, analysts warned

AFP , HONG KONG

Asian stock markets closed little changed on Friday, finding little direction amid concerns over the outlook for the dollar and the regional currencies, dealers said.

They said sentiment remained positive overall, helped by the continued easing in oil prices and quieter forex markets after the dramatic losses in the dollar on Thursday. Some noted that while a weaker dollar is a negative for exporting economies, foreign investors continue to put money into the region's markets, so ensuring a virtuous circle of both stock and forex gains on their investment.

The risk is that these flows could just as easily reverse, as they have in the past, when foreign investors decide to take their profits although there seems no sign of that happening at the moment.

Dealers said there was some caution that meetings of the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers in Berlin or APEC leaders in Chile over the weekend might produce a statement on the currency markets but few believe that there would be any clear commitment to intervention.

On the day, Tokyo and Hong Kong closed flat but Seoul was down 1.01 percent after weaker-than-expected third quarter growth figures.

The TAIEX closed 0.38 percent lower as investors took to the sidelines, lacking the will and the fresh lead needed to build on gains above the key resistance level of 6,000 points, dealers said.

While foreign investors continued on the buy-side ahead of the Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) increase in the Taiwan's market weighting later this month, local investors preferred to take their profits on the gains made earlier this week.

The weighted index closed down 22.94 points at 6,026.55, off a high of 6,065.68 and a low of 6,018.19, on turnover of NT$72.52 billion (US$2.24 billion).

Japanese share prices closed broadly flat as early gains were shed on lingering concerns over the drag of a strong yen on export earnings, dealers said.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange's benchmark NIKKEI-225 index rose 0.42 points to 11,082.84. The broader TOPIX index of all First Section shares lost 0.48 points or 0.04 percent to 1,109.77.

South Korean share prices closed 1.01 percent lower on institutional program selling, with sentiment generally weak after the market's failure to breach key resistance levels at 890-900 points, dealers said.

The KOSPI Index closed down 8.81 points to 867.03.

Hong Kong share prices closed little changed in slow trade as the absence of fresh leads gave investors an excuse to clear positions ahead of the weekend, dealers said.

The Hang Seng Index closed down 12.14 points or 0.09 percent at 13,787.68. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index lost 27.47 points or 0.56 percent to 4,843.72.

Chinese share prices closed 0.89 percent higher led by the banks on expectations their earnings will get a boost from higher interest income while petro-chemical firms rallied on lower oil prices, dealers said.

The Shanghai A-share Index rose 12.79 points to 1,448.91, while the Shenzhen A-share Index was up 2.14 points or 0.59 percent at 364.45. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which covers both A- and B-shares, closed up 12.13 points or 0.89 percent at 1,379.96.

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