Sun, Dec 19, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Tokyo leads the way as Asian markets firm up

STEADY OIL WELCOMED Taiwanese shares closed slightly lower in quiet trading as investors preferred to take to the sidelines after a good run this week

AFP , HONG KONG

Asian stock markets closed mostly firmer on Friday, led by a surprisingly strong showing in Tokyo as investors welcomed steadier oil prices and relative calm on the foreign exchanges despite yet another record US current account deficit, dealers said.

They said that while the US third quarter current account deficit blew out to an unprecedented US$164.7 billion, it actually fell short of forecasts at around US$170 billion, allowing some sense of relief.

The fact that oil prices too did not build on very sharp gains made on Thursday kept the bad news in check although underlying concerns remain in place, especially on the US trade and fiscal position.

Tokyo rose 1.41 percent, closing once again above the key 11,000 points level as investors focused on domestic-orientated companies, while Sydney added another record breaking 0.32 percent to put the historic 4,000 points level within easy reach.

Taiwanese share prices closed 0.16 percent lower in quiet trade after Wall Street's mixed performance overnight, dealers said.

They said that after a slightly better week, many investors preferred to take to the sidelines ahead of the weekend.

The TAIEX closed down 9.91 points at 6,009.32, off a high of 6,028.75 and a low of 6,002.39, on turnover of NT$60.21 billion (US$1.86 billion).

Decliners led gainers 373 to 295, with 175 stocks unchanged.

"Investors stayed on the sidelines, given expectations of pressure on the index at around the annual moving average of 6,033 points," said Johnny Lee, a manager with President Securities.

"They were also reluctant to make any aggressive moves before parliament's decision on select major bills," such as a revision on the statute of the State Financial Restructuring Fund.

Japanese share prices closed 1.41 percent higher aided by relatively stable oil prices and foreign exchange rates, dealers said.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange's benchmark Nikkei-225 index gained 153.95 points to 11,078.32. The broader TOPIX index of all First Section shares added 10.28 points or 0.93 percent to 1,111.35.

Gainers led decliners 1,041 to 384, with 166 stocks unchanged, on volume of 1.201 billion shares, from 1.125 billion Thursday.

"As earnings of large Japanese companies are not bad, some investors were seen buying, partly helped by a fairly stable external environment including foreign exchange rates and crude prices," said Yoku Ihara, head of the investment information department at Retela Crea Securities.

Dealers said sentiment should get some support after the Bank of Japan reported the Japanese economy would continue its recovery despite some areas of weakness.

South Korean share prices closed 0.16 percent higher as foreign investors bought Samsung Electronics and other blue chips, with program buying providing a further boost to the market, dealers said.

The KOSPI index closed up 1.43 points at 875.13. Risers led fallers by 393 to 325, with 83 stocks unchanged.

Hong Kong share prices closed 0.23 percent lower on continued legal uncertainty over the listing of the government's Link real estate investment trust (REIT), with a weaker HSBC pressuring the market, dealers said.

The Hang Seng Index closed down 32.19 points at 13,992.44, off a low of 13,905.40 and high of 14,032.43, on volume of HK$10.66 billion (US$1.37 billion).

The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index was up 15.94 points or 0.33 percent at 4,778.86.

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