- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2003

TOKYO, Feb. 10 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended slightly higher in light pre-holiday trading Monday, lifted strength in export related issues.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which lost 36.03 points Friday, rose 36.77 points, or 0.4 percent, to 8,484.93. The broader Topix Index, which lost 0.84 points during the previous session, rose 3.58 points, or 0.4 percent, to 842.69.

Advances outpaced declines, 845 to 488, while another 162 issues settled unchanged.

Ahead of a national holiday on Tuesday, volume declined to 672.16 million shares, its lowest level in over a month, and down from 740.16 million shares changing hands on Friday.

Analysts said stocks inched higher in narrow range-bound pre-holiday trading as the U.S. dollar's strength on global currency markets buoyed export-related issues.

The Japanese yen's weakness boosts the value of those exporters' overseas earnings when translated into local currency terms.

With most investors on the sidelines, trading was dominated by speculators targeting low-priced issues for quick profits, experts said.

Among some of the most active issues, Sharp rose 1.5 percent, Hitachi gained 2 percent, Toyota eased 0.3 percent and Fuji Photo Film lost 1.4 percent.

Oki Electric surged 7.8 percent after the company's president unveiled a bullish profit outlook for the coming fiscal year.

Mitsui-Soko climbed 5.3 percent on a report that it will jointly start mail delivery operations from April with Japan's Postal Services Agency.

Elsewhere in Asia, prices ended higher on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, lifted by bouts of bargain hunting. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which added 24.80 points in the previous session, rose 81.19 points, or 0.9 percent, to 9,232.14.

Analysts said stocks were lifted by bargain hunting but fears of a war between the United States and Iraq, as well as expectations for a lackluster corporate earnings season in Hong Kong in coming weeks, limited the gains.

In trading, global fashion retailer Esprit Holdings jumped 4.1 percent on speculation the company will post favorable first-half results on Wednesday.

Global bank HSBC Holdings rose 0.9 in a technical rebound after sinking 7 percent in value over the past month.

Bank of East Asia added 0.7 percent ahead of its earnings results on Tuesday, Chinese oil producer CNOOC lost 1.4 percent and PetroChina lost 2.4 percent.

Prices ended little changed in cautious trading on the South Korean Stock Exchange. The Korean Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which lost 12.02 points during the previous session, eased 0.23 points to 577.25.

Prices ended fractionally lower on the Singapore Stock Exchange in light trading. The Straits Times Index, which slipped 2.22 points during the previous session, slipped another 2.68 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,282.73.

Meanwhile, prices also ended lower on the Taiwan Stock Exchange in moderate trading. The key Weighted Index, which sank 98.21 points during its previous session, lost another 91.50 points, or 1.9 percent, to 4,643.87.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended slightly lower on the Australian Stock Exchange in light trading. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which rose 17.90 points during the previous session, slipped 15.90 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,870.20.

Analysts said stocks eased despite some bargain hunting as fears about war with Iraq knocked down investor confidence.

In trading, the country's largest telco Telstra fell 1.6 percent, Australia's largest home lender CBA fell 0.8 percent, National Australia Bank slipped 0.2 percent, ANZ Bank rose 1.3 percent and Westpac Bank slipped 0.5 percent.

News Corp. fell 0.8 percent, BHP Billiton lost 0.8 percent, Rio Tinto fell 1 percent, and gaming group Aristocrat Leisure dropped 4.2 percent.

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