Sun, Jan 08, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Asian investors pause for breath as gains continue

TAKING PROFITS In Taipei, profit-taking wiped out early gains and the NT dollar weakened as foreign investors took some cash off the table after the recent upswing

AFP , HONG KONG

Asian stocks closed mixed on Friday as investors paused for breath after another week of record finishes and multi-year highs brought in the new year, dealers said.

They said the markets basically continued where they left off last year after getting a key boost from signs US interest rates are close to peaking out even as economic growth continues strong and inflation remains contained.

There are few concerns too about oil prices which should begin to ease later in the first quarter as the season of peak demand in the Northern Hemisphere winter passes.

There was some limited profit-taking but overall the markets were winding down ahead of the key US employment data due later on Friday, with most expecting another solid report to give investors a strong lead for tomorrow.

On the day, Seoul which gained 1.24 percent to finish well above the key 1,400 points level, and Jakarta, which closed 0.93 percent higher, were both in record-breaking form while Mumbai added 0.23 percent to fall just short.

Taiwanese share prices closed 0.22 percent lower as profit-taking wiped out early gains driven by the NASDAQ's strong showing, dealers said.

They said weakness in the Taiwan dollar may have reflected foreign investors taking some cash off the table after recent sustained gains but added that on the day the downturn was not that significant.

The TAIEX shed 15.05 points to 6,694.82, off a high of 6,761.01 and a low of 6,676.65, on turnover of NT$169.83 billion (US$5.27 billion). Declines led gains 625 to 445, with 144 stocks unchanged.

"Investors simply took profits rather than any make any decisive exit from the bourse," said William Wang, senior vice president with International Investment Trust (國際投信).

"They pocketed profits from some stocks and shifted funds to others that were laggards in the recent upswing," he said, adding that trading was dominated by such rotational moves.

Tokyo

Japanese share prices closed little changed as many investors sat on the sidelines ahead of keenly waited US employment data as well as a three-day weekend in Japan, dealers said.

They said technology stocks received a boost from a rise in the US tech-rich NASDAQ index which hit its highest close since May 2001 but profit-taking in many other sectors weighed on the main indices.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange's benchmark NIKKEI-225 index added 2.84 points to 16,428.21, the highest close since Sept. 20, 2000.

The broader TOPIX index of all first-section shares shed 0.25 points to 1,684.90.

Many were keenly awaiting Friday's US jobs data "which could impact the current pace of US interest rate hikes," said Hitoshi Yamamoto, chief fund manager of Commerz International Capital Management (Japan).

Investors were looking for further clues on whether the US Federal Reserve may soon halt its series of interest rate increases, as suggested by the minutes from the central bank's Dec. 13 meeting published this week.

South Korean shares rose 1.24 percent for another record finish, with Samsung Electronics and other IT stocks rebounding sharply after gains on NASDAQ, dealers said.

They said government efforts to counter a strengthening won, which could make exports more expensive, may have helped sentiment after the gains in the currency hit sentiment Thursday.

The KOSPI index added 17.27 points at 1,412.78, the high for the day. The intraday low was 1,395.26.

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