Sun, Dec 24, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Singapore stars as Asia markets close mainly higher

CHRISTMAS CHEER After panic selling in Thailand triggered by measures to curb the baht, Asian stocks ended the week buoyant, with Singapore share prices at record levels

AFP , HONG KONG

Asian stocks closed mainly higher on Friday in lackluster trading as investors squared off their positions ahead of the Christmas holidays.

Singapore provided the highlight of the day with a 0.74 gain which delivered the benchmark back into record territory while Tokyo was up 0.34 percent after a late rally in market leaders.

Modest gains were also notched up in Hong Kong, Taipei, Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok where anxiety appears to have abated after the government's attempt to introduce currency controls earlier in the week.

Slight losses were registered in Jakarta, Manila and Wellington while Shanghai and Seoul were flat.

TAIPEI

Share prices closed 0.41 percent higher as fund mangers spruced up portfolios ahead of the year-end, with expectations of increased foreign capital inflows also providing support.

However, volume was light as many market players were away on holiday.

The weighted index rose 31.53 points at 7,652.47 on turnover of NT$86.97 billion (US$2.68 billion).

"Stocks found support from window-dressing activity in the run-up to the end of the year," said Michael On, president of Beyond Asset Management Co Ltd.

He said some investors are pinning hopes that foreign funds will allocate more money to Taiwan amid expected reduction of exposure to Thailand following the recent financial turbulence in that country.

Rotational activity seen on Friday is an indication of such hopes, the analyst said, but added that trade was relatively thin due to the holiday mood. The Taiwan stock market will remain open tomorrow but trade is expected to be sluggish as most overseas bourses will be shut for the Christmas holiday.

TOKYO

Share prices rose 0.34 percent, reaching a new seven-month high, in a late-day rally as interest in blue chips and upbeat corporate news offset end of the year profit-taking.

Dealers said figures released by Toyota Motor Corp showing it was on course to become the world's biggest automaker helped lift the mood of the market, which was in negative territory in the morning session.

The Nikkei-225 gained 57.13 points to close at 17,104.96, its highest close since May 9. But the broader TOPIX index of all first-section companies eked out gains of only 0.80 points to end at 1,672.10.

Volume fell to 1.71 billion shares from 2.07 billion on Thursday.

HONG KONG

Share prices closed 0.51 percent higher as China Mobile and select blue chips attracted interest ahead of the expiry of December futures contracts next week.

Dealers said Hutchison Telecom was in focus on expectations of a bidding war for the company's Indian unit.

They said Chinese insurers picked up after reports China issued draft rules allowing the firms to invest in a wider range of overseas stocks and fixed-income products.

The Hang Seng Index closed up 97.68 points at 19,320.52.

Hutchison Telecommunication was in focus amid expectations of a bidding war for its Indian unit.

UK's Vodafone Group confirmed that it is considering buying Hutchison's 67 percent-owned unit Hutchison Essar, pitting it in a likely bidding war with India's Reliance Communications and others.

SEOUL

Share prices closed little changed as many investors took to the sidelines ahead of the holiday weekend and the release of key economic data in the coming week.

The market started off on a weak note due to a decline on Wall Street and downbeat US economic data, moved in a tight range throughout the session and ended with slight gains on foreign investor interest in banks and retailers.

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