- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

TOKYO, Feb. 14 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended higher Friday in busy options related trading, lifted by a favorable reading on Japan's economy.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which slipped 64.51 points Thursday, gained 102.26 points, or 1.2 percent, to 8,701.92. The key index rose 3 percent in value during the holiday shortened trading week.

The broader Topix Index, which eased 4.22 points during the previous session, rose 5.04 points, or 0.6 percent, to 858.05.

Advances outpaced declines, 888 to 462, while another 146 issues settled unchanged.

Volume jumped to an estimated 1.15 billion shares from 949.4 million shares changing hands on Thursday, partly due to the settlement for February stock option contracts.

Analysts said stocks were lifted as investors bought domestic-related stocks after the government announced that Japan's October-December gross domestic product was much stronger than most investors had been expecting.

Japan's GDP for the latest quarter grew at a price-adjusted 0.5 percent from the previous quarter, handily beating the consensus forecast for a 0.3 percent contraction.

Surprisingly robust spending by companies and consumers during the period added to revived overseas demand for Japanese goods.

Reports later in the day of a downward revision in December industrial output and a drop in January department store sales from year-earlier levels did little to dent the market's enthusiasm about the GDP data, experts said.

The dollar's ability to stay above the 120-yen level also supported electrical and auto stocks throughout the session, analysts said.

In trading, real estate stocks finished mostly higher, helped by the government's decision to lower lending rates on its Housing Loan Corp. loans by 10 basis points to 2.3 percent per annum.

Daikyo rose 3.9 percent, Mitsui Fudosan gained 2.3 percent and Mitsubishi Estate added 1.4 percent.

Construction stocks also ended higher. Kajima added 1.9 percent, Taisei rose 2.7 percent, Obayashi gained 3.8 percent and Shimizu rose 2.9 percent.

Meanwhile, Nippon Steel rose 3.3 percent, video game software developer Sega dropped 8.4 percent, Sega's parent company, CSK, rose 2.3 percent and Toyota added 0.3 percent,

Elsewhere in Asia, prices ended slightly higher on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which lost 141.47 points in the previous session, added 28.33 points, or 0.3 percent, to 9,201.76.

In trading, airline-to-property conglomerate Swire Pacific added 0.9 percent after it said it formed a 50-50 joint venture with a unit of Chinese carrier China Eastern Airlines to look for investment opportunities in airport-related operations in China. However, China Eastern Airlines fell 1.9 percent.

Chinese commodity stocks sank, with Jiangxi Copper sinking 9.8 percent and Chalco dropping 6.7 percent.

Meanwhile, HSBC Holdings added 1.2 percent, Sinotrans, one of China's largest logistics firms, fell 1.1 percent, China Mobile lost 0.6 percent and China Unicom slipped 0.9 percent.

Prices ended fractionally lower in moderate trading on the South Korean Stock Exchange. The Korean Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which lost 7.62 points during the previous session, slipped 0.43 points to 575.24.

POSCO led the market lower, sinking 3.7 percent after the steel giant said it would raise domestic prices of cold-rolled steel by 4.4 percent from February 25. The world's second-largest steel maker also said it would raise prices.

Meanwhile, prices also ended slightly lower on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The key Weighted Index, which lost 116.91 points during its previous session, slipped 13.97 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,493.99 — its lowest level in six weeks.

In trading, Financial Holdings fell 0.6 percent, AU Optronics lost 2.1 percent and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing rose 2 percent.

Prices ended slightly higher on the Singapore Stock Exchange. The key Straits Times Index, which lost 27.64 points during the previous session, rose 5.15 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,273.48.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended at a new 3-year low on the Australian Stock Exchange in moderate trading. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which fell 46.60 points during the previous session, lost another 16.10 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,804.40.

Analysts said stocks carved out a fresh three-year closing low as globally exposed blue chips lost ground ahead of the key report on Iraq by U.N. weapons inspectors.

In trading, News Corp. fell 1 percent, BHP Billiton fell 1.5 percent, Telstra slipped 0.9 percent, National Australia Bank fell 2.3 percent and AMP fell 1.9 percent.


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