Sun, Apr 01, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Middle East tensions limit gains on Asian bourses

SIDELINES Wall Street's overnight gains offset profit-taking and technical pressure in Taipei, where traders tried to refrain from rocking the boat ahead of the weekend

AFP , HONG KONG

Asian stocks closed mostly higher on Friday following Wall Street's rise and easing concerns over the US economy, but gains were capped by Middle East tension which has driven up the price of oil.

Wall Street firmed on Thursday after an upward revision to US economic growth helped ease fears about a slowdown and this had most Asia-Pacific markets off to a positive start before some bargain hunters stepped in.

Rising oil prices also weighed on sentiment amid the week-old standoff between London and Tehran over 15 naval detainees which has sent world oil prices surging to a six-month high -- with warnings they could rise further.

As a result, Taipei was up 0.46 percent, Tokyo gained just 0.14 percent, Seoul gained 0.11 percent and Sydney was 0.57 percent higher.

Bangkok was up 0.31 percent in nervous trading ahead of protests against the military-installed government, while Singapore closed flat and Shanghai ended a string of record runs by easing 0.42 percent.

TAIPEI

Taiwanese share prices closed 0.46 percent higher as the lead set by Wall Street's overnight gains outweighed technical pressure and profit-taking.

Dealers said the central bank's decision to raise its key interest rate by 12.50 basis points from Friday did not have much effect on the equity market as the magnitude of the rate increase met market expectations.

The TAIEX closed up 36.08 points at 7,884.41 on turnover of NT$117.72 billion (US$3.56 billion).

Grand Cathay Investment Services Corp (大華證券) chairman Tu Jin-lung (杜金龍) said the market moved in a narrow band as many investors chose to remain on the sidelines during the last session of the quarter.

"Investors had made their necessary moves earlier, so they were reluctant to conduct any aggressive measures during the last session," he said.

While the lead on Wall Street overnight lent support to the local bourse, investors here still refrained from any strong position-building ahead of the weekend.

"With companies here to soon disclose their 2006 earnings results and first-quarter performance, many stayed on the sidelines," Tu added.

He said that investors would look for corporate leads and moves in the major markets for clues as to the direction the local bourse will take.

TOKYO

Share prices closed slightly higher after an upward revision to US economic growth which helped lift Wall Street overnight.

Dealers said investors cashed in most of their early gains, turning cautious ahead of Monday's key Tankan survey of Japanese business sentiment after a raft of domestic data broadly met market expectations.

The NIKKEI-225 index rose 23.71 points to 17,287.65. Volume fell to 1.94 billion shares from 2.34 billion on Thursday.

Dealers said trading had been thin as the end of the fiscal year at the weekend approached, especially in view of uncertainty about the outlook for the US economy.

HONG KONG

Share prices closed 0.11 percent lower, though off their lows, as profit-taking eased toward the end of trade, but with caution remaining over rising crude oil prices.

Dealers said select property and financial stocks began drawing some interest again and helped limit the market's overall losses.

The Hang Seng Index closed down 20.85 points at 19,800.93.

SEOUL

Share prices closed slightly higher, with institutional investors playing it safe and selling ahead of the weekend and upcoming corporate earnings releases.

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