Sun, May 07, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Asian markets gain in reduced regional trading

LOW VOLUMES With several markets closed on Friday, Manila chalked up its biggest single-day gain in five years, while profit-taking eroded a strong Taipei opening rally

AFP , HONG KONG

Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Friday in sharply reduced volumes with many of the region's major markets closed for a public holiday, dealers said.

Gains on Wall Street and improved commodity prices underpinned rising markets which are continuing to benefit from a broader improved sentiment.

Manila stood out with a 4.22 percent surge, its biggest one-day gain in five years, while Taipei, Sydney and Kuala Lumpur were also higher. Mumbai made a slight gain, enough for its benchmark to post another record.

However, Jakarta and Singapore were flat and lower with profit takers cashing up on their recent rallies while Wellington was again sharply lower on New Zealand Telecom, after it released a poor round of profit results.

Tokyo, Shanghai, Bangkok, Seoul and Hong Kong were closed for public holidays.

Taipei share prices closed up 0.35 percent in heavy trade but were off early highs as profit-taking offset continued foreign investor support.

Profit-takers opted out ahead of the weekend after seeing the market had extended a strong opening rally following overnight gains on Wall Street.

The TAIEX added 25.40 points at 7,370.44 on turnover of NT$190.35 billion (US$6.02 billion).

"Investors determined it was time for locking in profits as the market had gained 1,000 points in just a few months," said Alex Huang, assistant vice president at Barits International Securities.

Technically, the market was approaching strong resistance at 7,500 points so the reverse was to have been expected, paving the way for a broader consolidation, Huang said.

At the same time, any downturn is unlikely to be too serious.

"Any correction is unlikely to prove severe," Huang said. "Solid support can be expected at about 7,200 points next week."

Sydney share prices soared 1.3 percent as investor sentiment rebounded following a sharp sell-off the previous day, helped by renewed demand for resource stocks.

Dealers said a quarterly monetary statement from the Reserve Bank of Australia signalling it did not expect to raise interest rates again in the near future after Wednesday's hike of 25 basis point boosted banking and retail stocks.

Higher metal prices overnight supported the rise in index leading resources BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, while the bullish sentiment extended to energy stocks despite the fall in oil futures below US$70 a barrel.

The SP/ASX 200 index rose 66.2 points to 5,255.4.

Among Friday's gainers, Macquarie Bank shares rose after the investment house revealed it was mulling a takeover offer for ports operator Patrick Corp to rival a A$5.8 billion (US$4.5 billion) buyout deal with logistics firm Toll Holdings.

Singapore share prices closed 0.46 percent lower on continued profit-taking following a recent rally that sent the index to record peaks.

The Straits Times Index (STI) fell 12.28 points to 2,632.42.

"We might consolidate next week," Fraser-AMMB research director Najeeb Jarhom said.

Dealers see the benchmark index being supported at 2,600 points.

A local brokerage dealer said the market will look for trading cues next wee from corporate results to be released such as Singapore Airlines (SIA), SembCorp Industries, CapitaLand, and telecom firm StarHub.

In Kuala Lumpur share prices surged 0.83 percent on strong buying activity in late trade.

Dealers said buying momentum picked up in the afternoon due to expectations that the market will trend higher next week, with both second-liners and index heavyweights expected to be in focus.

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