Asian bourses close the week mixed

AFP , HONG KONG

Sun, Aug 06, 2006 - Page 10

Asian stocks closed mixed on Friday with investors sidelined ahead of US job figures due out later in the day and next week's Federal Reserve decision on interest rates.

Dealers said modest gains on Wall Street amid an easing in oil prices provided an early lead in Asian trade before the recent trend of afternoon profit taking set in and hauled back gains.

This, they said, reflected anxiety in the markets with investors unsure over which direction the Fed will take on Tuesday when it decides on whether to increase US interest rates or end a two year cycle of rate hikes.

The latest signal in this was expected to be in the release of the job numbers, with lower than expected employment figures expected to ease pressure on rates, hence the emphasis being placed on them by investors.

Tokyo registered modest gains in cautious trade, while Hong Kong, Taipei, Mumbai and Sydney were lower on rising interest rate prospects while Wellington suffered after New Zealand Telecom reported a quarterly loss.

Bangkok was flat as Seoul rose on program buying, Manila also ended the day in positive territory on upbeat expectations for the next round of profit results while Singapore and Kuala Lumpur recorded mild gains.

Taipei

Share prices closed 0.30 percent lower as late selling wiped out early gains driven by a firmer Wall Street overnight, with lingering worries over the US Federal Reserve's decision next week on interest rates weighing on sentiment.

The weighted index closed down 19.71 points 6,442.61 on turnover of NT$69.09 billion (US$2.1 billion).

"Investors camped on the sidelines today as they adopted a cautious approach until interest rate uncertainties vanish," said Alex Huang, an assistant vice president at Mega International Investment Services Co Ltd.

"Short-term investors pocketed profits when possible, while others were reluctant to push share prices much higher amid light turnover," he said.

Uncertainties surrounding US interest rate policy could negatively affect the market early next week ahead of the Federal Reserve's decision, Huang noted.

The market's consolidation could extend into next week when the spotlight will be on the prospects for industry fundamentals and the economy, dealers said.

Taiwan Semiconductor Man-ufacturing Co closed unchanged at 54.90.

Tokyo

Share prices closed with modest gains as traders remained cautious ahead of a US jobs report that could be pivotal for the interest rate outlook.

Dealers said views were divided on whether the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates for the 18th straight meeting on Tuesday so all eyes were turned toward last month's non-farm payroll data due out late Friday.

The Nikkei-225 index rose 28.81 points or 0.19 percent to 15,499.18. Volume fell to 1.35 billion shares from 1.43 billion on Thursday.

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone dropped ¥14,000 or 2.4 percent to 569,000 after reporting an 18.5 percent decline in fiscal first quarter net profit.

Seoul

Share prices closed 0.96 percent higher as strong program buying offset caution ahead of US employment data and next week's US Federal Reserve meeting on interest rates.

Dealers said the market started firm and closed near its high for the day as program buying picked up in late trade.

The KOSPI index closed up 12.46 points at 1,304.51. Volume was 186 million shares worth 2.4 trillion won (US$2.51 billion).

"The market's energy seems to be getting stronger although it's too early to say that the index has settled firmly at 1,300 points," said Hana Securities analyst Cho Yong-hyun, adding the market is expected to post gains next week.

Samsung Electronics added 5,000 won to 615,000.

Hong Kong

Share prices closed 0.94 percent lower as investors locked in profits in property and bank stocks in late trade.

Dealers said investors were cautious about key US jobs data due out later Friday and the Federal Reserve's interest rate decision next week.

The Hang Seng index closed down 160.62 points at 16,887.80. Turnover was HK$24.7 billion (US$3.2 billion).

Dealers said trading next week would be guided by the US Fed's rate move and its comments on the economic outlook, as well as corporate results from companies such as Cathay Pacific and Standard Chartered.

"Investors are becoming more worried about the US Fed's interest rate decision. Many believe interest rates will rise again next week," said Francis Lun, general manager at Fulbright Securities.

Shanghai

Share prices closed 1.94 percent lower on increasing liquidity concerns, with metal stocks and automakers under heavy selling pressure.

Dealers said those concerns stem from Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and the disposal of state-owned, non-tradable stocks which are seen as positives in the longer-term but short-term are putting considerable pressure on funds.

This has put investors on the defensive for several weeks.

The Shanghai A-share Index tumbled 32.60 points to 1,650.23 on turnover of 14.34 billion yuan (US$1.79 billion) and the Shenzhen A-share Index was down 11.89 points or 2.87 percent at 402.36 on turnover of 7.77 billion yuan.

The Shanghai Composite Index, which covers A and B-shares, fell 30.91 points or 1.93 percent at 1,570.15 on turnover of 14.40 billion yuan.

"The market saw a small rebound in the morning, but the momentum was unable to be sustained due to increasing caution and a lack of follow-through buying," said Wu Dazhong, an analyst at Chinalion Securities.

Analysts said more upcoming IPO (Initial Public Offering) subscriptions will attract a great deal of money away from the secondary market.

Metal issues were hit after Nymex gold futures ended weaker on a fall in oil prices.

Zhongjin Gold fell 1.88 yuan to 17.09.