- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

TOKYO, Feb. 26 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended slightly lower in light trading Wednesday, pressured by weakness in the banking sector.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which sank 204.46 points during the previous session, slipped 3.68 points, or 0.04 percent, to 8,356.81.

The Nikkei has fallen for six out of seven sessions, dampened by global tensions and institutional selling ahead of the end of Japan's financial year on March 31.

The broader Topix index, which dropped 19.78 points in the previous session, eased 0.80 point, or 0.1 percent, to 818.38.

Volume declined to an estimated 598.22 million shares from 754.94 million shares changing hands on Tuesday.

Declines edged out advances 658 to 647.

Analysts said stocks eased as blue chips extended their losses from the previous session amid caution a day after it was learned that North Korea had fired a missile into the Sea of Japan.

Also, three of the four Japanese megabanks lost ground partly due to renewed concerns about their plans to boost capital, helping to dull investors' appetite.

In an active banking sector, Mizuho Holdings Inc., the world's largest bank by assets, sank 6.5 percent, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group dropped 4.3 percent and UFJ Holdings fell 2.2 percent.

Among some of the other active issues, copier and camera maker Canon fell 1 percent, Nomura Holdings Inc., Japan's largest brokerage, lost 2.3 percent and computer maker Fujitsu Ltd. rose 2.3 percent.

Sony Corp., the world's largest consumer electronics maker, gained 0.9 percent after tumbling to a 16-month low on Tuesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, stocks ended lower on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange for the fifth consecutive session. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which fell 90.99 points in the previous session, lost another 32.20 points, or 0.4 percent, to 9,116.28.

Analysts said stocks declined as minor gains in the property and defensive stocks were offset by weakness in the banking and telecom sectors.

In trading, banking giant HSBC Holdings lost 0.6 percent, global fashion retailer Esprit Holdings rose 1.3 percent, Hong Kong's dominant fixed-line telecom operator PCCW Ltd. fell 1 percent, China's biggest mobile phone operator China Mobile lost 0.6 percent and China Unicom fell 1 percent.

Prices ended fractionally higher in moderate trading on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The key Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange, which fell 154.85 points in the previous session, added 2.34 points, or 0.05 percent, to 4,456.69.

Prices ended slightly lower in cautious trading on the South Korean Stock Exchange. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which dropped 24.04 points during the previous session, eased 1.99 points, or 0.3 percent, to 590.26.

Market sentiment was hit by lingering security concerns in the Korean Peninsula, analysts said.

North Korea urged its military and people to be ready for a U.S. attack, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, quoting a statement from the communist government. The North's Foreign Ministry late Tuesday accused the U.S. of planning massive military exercises in the Korean Peninsula in preparation for an attack on North Korea, according to the report.

The North also reportedly has said that a pre-emptive attack could happen at any time, so the country must "mobilize all resources." The news came a day after the North test-fired at least one anti-ship missile into the Sea of Japan — the same day South Korea inaugurated a new president, with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell present.

In trading, chip giant Samsung Electronics lost 1.9 percent and SK Telecom gained 1.8 percent.

Prices also ended slightly lower on the Singapore Stock Exchange. The Straits Times Index, which lost 16.35 points during the previous session, slipped another 3.30 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,287.14.

Elsewhere, prices ended higher in moderate trading on the Australian Stock Exchange, supported by Tuesday's gains on Wall Street. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which fell 56.80 points during the previous session, gained 23.70 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,804.20.

In trading, News Corp. rose 0.6 percent and miner WMC Resources gained 2.9 percent.


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