- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

TOKYO, Feb. 4 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended mixed in moderate trading Tuesday as profit-taking offset gains in large-cap issues.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which jumped 160.85 points Monday, eased 15.89 points, or 0.2 percent, to 8,484.90. The broader Topix Index, which gained 16.52 points during the previous session, rose another 6.56 points, or 0.8 percent, to 844.26.

Advances outpaced declines 1,058 to 331.

Analysts said the boarder market was supported for a second day as investors continued to pick up large-cap issues as well as firms with strong earnings prospects.

Experts said the Nikkei finished lower as profit-taking took a toll on some technology heavyweights.

Analysts noted recent fears of heavy investor selling, including corporate pension funds, ahead of the end-March fiscal year book closings seemed to be overdone, resulting in short-covering by past sellers.

Such fears had kept even shares of firms with upbeat earnings from rising quickly, but with investor confidence slowly returning to the Tokyo market bargain-hunting emerged, analysts said.

In trading, Sumitomo Corp. gained 2.6 percent after Japan's fourth-largest trading firm posted a 24.4 percent rise in net profits for the nine months to December, while other trading houses were also swept higher by profit expectations.

Among some of the other active issues, top brokerage Nomura Holdings Inc. gained 1.4 percent, Sony Corp. fell 1.3 percent, Sharp lost 0.2 percent, Toyota Motor added 0.7 percent, Mitsubishi Electric gained 1.5 percent, NTT DoCoMo rose 2.6 percent and KDDI gained 3.1 percent.

Elsewhere in Asia, prices ended fractionally lower in light post-holiday trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which rose 18.16 points last Thursday, slipped 6.24 points, or 0.07 percent, to 9,252.71. The Hong Kong market had been closed Friday and Monday for the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday.

Analysts said stocks ended little changed on the first trading day of the Year of the Goat, reflecting investor caution ahead of a speech by the U.S. Secretary of State to the United Nations on Wednesday, which could increase the likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iraq.

In trading, micro motor maker and key exporter Johnson Electric Holdings jumped 3.9 percent. Hong Kong's dominant airline Cathay Pacific Airways fell 2.2 percent on fears a war in oil-producing Iraq could send the oil price, and jet fuel costs, higher.

Ports-to-telecoms conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa slipped 0.8 percent despite news the company would make a $247 million profit by selling its European bottled water business to a unit of Swiss food giant Nestle SA.

Prices ended slightly higher in light post-holiday trading on the South Korean Stock Exchange. The Korean Composite Stock Price Index, or Kopsi, which added 8.51 points last Thursday, rose 3.37 points, or 0.6 percent, to 603.78. The South Korean market also was Friday and Monday for the New Year holiday.

In trading, SK Telecom added 0.2 percent after reporting a 31 percent rise in its fourth quarter profits.

Prices ended higher in light trading on the Singapore Stock Exchange, snapping a three day losing streak. The Straits Times Index, which eased 4.45 points Friday, rose 4.98 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,296.59 as investors returned from their holiday weekend.

Southeast Asia's largest bank DBS Group rose 1 percent and Singapore Airlines gained 1.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Stock Exchange was closed for the long Chinese New Year holidays and will reopen on Feb. 6 after the Weighted Index rose 42.57 points to 5,015.16 during last Tuesday's session.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended slightly higher on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which lost 14.90 points during the previous session, added 5.60 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,926.10.

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