Sun, Sep 18, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Asian stocks mixed; Seoul and Sydney break records

POSITIVE OVERALL Despite a weak performance on Wall Street, South Korean and Australian markets boomed and losses elsewhere were modest on strong China data

AFP , HONG KONG

AFP, Hong Kong

Asian stocks closed mixed Friday after a lackluster showing on Wall Street but this was no deterrent to Seoul, Sydney, Wellington and Mumbai who all continued record-breaking performance in defiance of concerns over oil or rising interest rates, dealers said.

At the same time, losses elsewhere were modest and sentiment overall remained positive, with strong Chinese economic data underpinning hopes the region can continue to prosper.

Dealers said investors appear to have got used to the prospect of higher oil prices and interest rates, and to have the capacity to absorb what would normally appear to be hugely dramatic events such as Hurricane Katrina.

They said that if the markets can cope with this kind of setback it is hard to immediately see what could really call into question the current confident tone.

On the day, Seoul rose 0.39 percent, Sydney 0.88 percent, Wellington 0.56 percent and Mumbai added 1.17 percent.

Taiwan loses ground

Taiwan share prices closed 0.84 percent lower as further weakness in the NT dollar and fears of margin calls weighed down the market further, dealers said Friday.

A lackluster Wall Street overnight and the Taiwan central bank's in-line decision to hike interest rates by 12.5 basis points provided no support, with a weakening currency suggesting foreign investors may be taking their money out of the country, a major negative lead for their local counterparts.

The weighted index closed down 51.32 points at 6,031.24, off a high of 6,086.88 and a low of 6,015.56, on turnover of NT$60.61 billion (US$1.85 billion). Decliners led gainers 691 to 203, with 165 stocks unchanged.

"The Taiwan dollar tumbled despite the central bank's rate hike, triggering fears of foreign capital outflows," said Samson Chueh, assistant vice president at Fuhwa Securities.

Central bank governor Perng Fai-nan Thursday blamed an outflow of "hot money" for the recent weakness in the local currency.

Dealers said such worries over foreign capital flows and the bourse's recent sluggishness also raised fears of margin calls, whereby investors have to cover positions established on borrowed funds.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co fell NT$1.30 to NT$52.60 and United Microelectronic Corp was steady at NT$20.50.

Japan mixed

Japanese share prices closed mixed, with the headline blue-chip index ending 0.22 percent lower, weighed down by profit taking after recent strong gains, dealers said.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange's benchmark Nikkei-225 index fell 28.10 points to 12,958.68. However, the broader TOPIX index of all first-section shares gained 1.55 points or 0.12 percent to 1,328.84.

Gainers beat losers 817 to 713, with 127 stocks unchanged.

The Nikkei had gained 2.1 percent and the TOPIX jumped up 2.7 percent over the past week following reform-minded Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's massive election victory Sunday and amid upbeat signs on the Japanese economy.

"With stock prices almost reaching the 13,000 points level [on the Nikkei index], it is natural to take profits," said Mitsushige Akino, a chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management.

He said investors were also not in the mood to push stocks ahead of shortened trading next week, when the market is closed for public holidays both Monday and Friday.

Korea higher

South Korean share prices closed 0.39 percent higher, with the modest gain still enough to see the market chalk up another record finish, dealers said.

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