- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

SINGAPORE, March 18 (UPI) — Asian stock markets rallied across the board Tuesday as President George W. Bush's ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein finally lifted uncertainties about the timing of a war. With oil prices falling and the dollar rising, investors were anticipating the war to be swift and thus have limited negative impact on the world economy.

In a televised address that signaled an end to months of diplomacy, Bush said during early trading in Tokyo that Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours or face military action.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei average rose 1.05 percent at 7,954.46, despite profit-taking in late trading erasing part of the day's gains. Japanese exporters were benefiting from a stronger dollar (which makes their products more attractive), with Advantest Corp up 5.26 percent, Nikon up 4.4 percent and Sony Corp up 2.36 percent.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index ended up 4.28 percent at 537.31 points, rebounding after touching a 17-month low on Monday. Korean Air Co soared 15 percent after oil prices fell 1.3 percent overnight toward $35 a barrel. Hanjin Shipping Co also rose 8.5 percent.

In Taiwan, the Weighted Price Index gained 4.17 percent at 4539.72, but volumes were thin. Chipmaker TSMC gained 6.8 percent, while rival UMC added 6 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index gained 2.7 percent at 9,041.51 points, with a strong performance by China Mobile leading the way up. The telecom operator, up 6.69 percent, announced its first ever dividend while announced a net profit increase of 17 percent last year.

In Singapore, the key Straits Times Index closed 3.22 percent higher at 1,274.12, supported by buying interest in a few blue chips like UOB, up 5.6 percent, DBS up 4.6 percent and Venture Corp up 5.8 percent.

The Jakarta Stock Exchange Composite index was up 0.7 percent at 384.637, with Telkomunikasi Indonesia up 2.2 percent on bargain-hunting after recent sharp losses.

The 30-company Philippine Stock Exchange Index rose 0.6 percent to 1005.59 on bargain hunting.

In Kuala Lumpur, the main index rose 0.72 percent at 627.08 in quite trading.

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