Sun, Nov 25, 2007 - Page 10 News List

ASIA: Analysts predict fears will hamper Asian markets

RAY OF HOPE Concerns about US economic problems and domestic worries have caused jitters in Asia but at least one analyst was prepared to buck the bearish outlook

AP , HONG KONG

A woman looks at the stock index board at the South Korean Exchange in Seoul on Friday. The KOSPI index closed down 26.14 points at 1,772.88 after trading between 1,745.26 and 1,820.61.

PHOTO: AFP

Most Asian stock markets rebounded on Friday, wrapping up a turbulent week characterized by growing anxiety over a slowdown in the US economy and fallout from the credit crisis there.

Those fears would likely weigh on sentiment into next week, analysts said.

But with no bad news overnight from the US due to the holiday there on Thursday, investors bid up stocks in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

"The market was free of bad news from the US, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday," said Anothai Chiengtawan, an analyst with IV Global Securities in Bangkok.

In Taiwan and South Korea, however, shares fell, and Tokyo was closed for a holiday.

Hong Kong shares rebounded from two days of steep losses, lifted by property developers and oil companies.

The blue-chip Hang Seng Index rose 2.1 percent, or 536.17 points, to 26,541.09. The index had plunged 6.5 percent the previous two days.

"The market went up today just because of a technical rebound," said Kingston Lin, associate director of Prudential Brokerage, who predicted the index would fall to 25,400 next week.

"I don't think the upside is sustainable as a possible slowdown in US economic growth will cool investor sentiment in the short term," he said.

Domestic worries also weighed on the market.

"There is no catalyst now, after the suspension of the `through-train' scheme," said Peter Lai, a director at DBS Vickers.

He was referring to a plan announced by China in August that would allow mainland Chinese to invest directly in Hong Kong stocks. Beijing appears to have put the plan on hold.

Bucking the generally bearish outlook, tycoon Lee Shau-kee, chairman of property developer Henderson Land, was reported on Friday as saying he expects the benchmark index to rebound to 30,000 points by the end of this year.

He said he has set aside HK$10 billion (US$1.2 billion) to buy stocks.

The Hang Seng property subindex rose 3.1 percent on bargain-hunting and hopes for another US interest rate cut next month, traders said.

Hong Kong banks usually follow suit when the US Federal Reserve cuts lending rates.

Sino Land jumped 6.2 percent to HK$24, Sun Hung Kai Properties rose 2.4 percent to HK$140.50 and Henderson Land gained 1.9 percent to HK$59.80.

Offshore oil producer CNOOC was the biggest gainer among China oil companies.

It rose 4.4 percent to HK$13.30 on news of two oil discoveries in the South China Sea. Sinopec advanced 2.8 percent to HK$10.32, while Petrochina ended up 1.1 percent at HK$14.28.

On the Chinese mainland, airline and other shares surged on gains in the Chinese yuan, even as broader worries over the global economy capped the advance.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index added 1 percent, or 47.96 points, to 5,032.13, recovering from a 4.4 percent fall on Thursday that took the index to its lowest close since Aug. 22.

Airline companies rose after the official rate for the US dollar against the yuan was set at a record low level of 7.3992.

Airlines can benefit from a stronger yuan because they often carry large amounts of foreign currency-denominated debt.

Air China gained 7.3 percent to 20.66 yuan; China Southern Airlines surged by the daily 10 percent limit to 23.44 yuan.

China Eastern Airlines ended 6.6 percent higher at 13.91 yuan.

Although China's markets remain relatively isolated, investors are reacting to wider gloom over the US economic outlook due to the fallout from so-called subprime mortgages, analysts said.

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