Sun, Feb 18, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Asian stocks tend lower in advance of Lunar New Year

AFP , HONG KONG

Asian stocks closed mixed but were tending lower on Friday with investors ignoring a record finish on Wall Street and booking profits ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays.

Seoul made a slight 0.36 percent gain on continued optimism following an easing in nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula, while Jakarta, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur inched higher amid broader profit taking.

All other markets ended lower with Tokyo, down 0.12 percent, typifying the mood. Singapore fell 0.48 percent and Sydney shed 0.65 percent with both benchmarks falling off record highs.

Bangkok was down 0.84 percent while Manila was the worst on the day after slumping 1.36 percent, with investors consolidating on recent sharp gains.

Taipei and Mumbai were closed for public holidays.

TOKYO

Share prices closed slightly lower, easing off near seven-year highs as investors locked in profits ahead of next week's interest rate decision by the central bank.

Dealers said a stronger yen also weighed on exporters after the Japanese currency hit five-week highs against the dollar in overseas trade on Thursday.

The NIKKEI-225 index shed 21.58 points to 17,875.65. Volume was 2.15 billion shares, down from 2.39 billion on Thursday.

Yutaka Miura, senior strategist at Shinko Securities, said market participants were cautious in view of the US public holiday tomorrow and the Bank of Japan's decision this week on interest rates.

The food and beverage sector was in focus after US hedge fund Steel Partners said it was considering a tender offer to take control of Sapporo Holdings, the holding company for Japan's No. 3 brewer.

Rival Asahi Breweries, meanwhile, denied a report that it had informally made a takeover offer to Sapporo late last year.

Sapporo Holdings jumped ?00 or 12.6 percent to ?91, and Asahi Breweries advanced ?1 or 1.6 percent to ?,982. Kirin Brewery rose ?7 or 4.2 percent to ?,911.

HONG KONG

Share prices closed 0.14 percent higher on rotational buying of second and third-tier stocks, although trading overall was quiet ahead of a long weekend.

The Hang Seng index closed up 29.49 points at 20,567.91. Turnover on Friday was HK$37 billion (US$4.7 billion).

"The market lacked clear direction ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays," said Ben Kwong, research head at KGI Asia.

Hang Seng Bank was up HK$1.60 at HK$112.9.

SEOUL

Share prices extended their rise for a fourth straight day thanks to Wall Street's sustained rally and easing geopolitical concerns.

Dealers said Samsung Electronics surged nearly 3 percent on the company's share buyback program.

The KOSPI index closed up 5.18 points at 1,448.81. Volume was 202 million shares worth 3.5 trillion won (US$3.7 billion).

Samsung Electronics jumped 16,000 won to 590,000 won.

SHANGHAI

Share prices closed at fresh record highs, adding 0.18 percent on a fourth winning day as concerns over the prospect of higher interest rates continued to ease.

Dealers said that even with the markets closed next week for the long Lunar New Year holiday, heavy volumes picked up and investors were anxious not to miss out on the latest advance.

Reports that the authorities would approve the launch of new mutual funds were taken to mean that recent official warnings about possible overheating in the market would not be repeated.

The Shanghai Composite Index edged up 5.47 points to a record 2,998.47 on turnover of 94.06 billion yuan (US$12.14 billion).

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