- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

SINGAPORE, March 10 (UPI) — Concerns about the likelihood of a war in Iraq continued to take its toll on Asian stock markets Monday. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 1.3 percent to 8042.26, a new 20-year low, extending its losing streak to five days. The rest of Asia was not faring better.

In Tokyo, the financial sector was leading the way lower following news that Taiyo Mutual Life Insurance had decided to sell part of its share holdings in "two major city banks." Speculation was rife the two banks could be Sumitomo Mitsui and Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group, which as a result lost 10 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively. But the rest of the sector was also under pressure, with UFJ Holdings down 7.5 percent and Nikko Cordial down 2.9 percent.

In Taiwan, the main TAIEX index lost 0.7 percent at 4,319.99, continuing a five-day loosing streak. But technology shares outperformed the market, with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, up 2.4 percent after it announced it was close to reversing a revenue downturn.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index closed at 544.24, down 0.33 percent. Technology shares were also outperforming the index due to foreign buying interest. Samsung Electronics rose 2 percent and SK Telecom added 1.2 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index lost 0.5 percent to close at 8861.87m, dragged down by Hutchison and parent Cheung Kong after the former committed further funds to its British third generation mobile operations.

Hutchison lost 3.8 percent, while its parent Cheung Kong lost 3.9 percent.

In Kuala Lumpur, the general bearish sentiment was reinforced by news the industrial output data for January had come out below market expectations. The main index closed down 1.7 percent at 624.78.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index fell 1 percent to 1213.82, with selling noted on a few blue-chips like Keppel Corp, down 2 percent.

The Jakarta Stock Exchange composite index fell 1.83 percent to close at 382.665, while the 30-company Philippine Stock Exchange Index closed down 0.4 percent at 1010.70.

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