- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

TOKYO, Feb. 7 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended slightly lower in light trading Friday as investors sold blue-chips in the absence of fresh incentives.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which lost 65.66 points Thursday, slipped another 36.03 points, 0.4 percent, to 8,448.16. The broader Topix Index, which lost 5.34 points during the previous session, dipped 0.84 points, or 0.1 percent, to 839.11.

Volume declined to an estimated 740.16 million shares from 921.48 million shares changing hands Thursday.

Advances outgunned declines, 692 to 657, while another 141 issues settled unchanged.

Analysts said stocks eased on selling by companies unwinding mutually held shares and returning pension assets to the government.

Traders said Japanese corporations will likely continue to sell their blue-chip holdings in the absence of fresh incentives, testing support around the benchmark Nikkei index’s recent low of 8,200.

Even low-priced stocks that have risen in recent weeks on hopes for restructuring gave back some of their gains during Friday’s session as investors sold to lock in profits.

Comments Thursday by President George W. Bush “welcoming” a second United Nations resolution authorizing the use of force to disarm Iraq did not have much impact on the market, especially as Bush made it clear that the United States would act with or without U.N. approval.

Among some of the active issues, Kyocera lost 2.3 percent, Murata Manufacturing lost 2 percent, retailer Aeon fell 2.7 percent and Ito-Yokado rose 1.2 percent.

UFJ Holdings lost 2.7 percent after the megabank said its bad loans fell 4 percent during the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Mizuho Holdings lost 2.4 percent as investors shrugged off the bank’s latest announcement about its fund raising plans.

Elsewhere in Asia, prices ended slightly higher on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, lifted by some bouts of bargain hunting. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which lost 54.32 points in the previous session, added 24.80 points, or 0.3 percent, to 9,150.95.

Analysts said stocks inched higher after light bargain hunting emerged but fixed-line telecom operator PCCW Ltd. fell 1.7 percent as investor confidence was hurt by confusing statements about the company’s takeover approach to British telecom carrier Cable & Wireless Plc.

PCCW issued a statement in response to news reports saying it was not in talks to buy Cable & Wireless, only to confirm later in the day that it had made an approach to C&W in December about a possible takeover and had been rebuffed.

Meanwhile, global fashion retailer Esprit Holdings rose 3.9 percent and exporters Johnson Electric Holdings, which makes micro motors, added 3.5 percent and Li & Fung, a supply chain manager for garments and consumer products, rose 3.5 percent.

Prices ended lower in moderate trading on the South Korean Stock Exchange. The Korean Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which lost 11.18 points during the previous session, lost 12.02 points, or 2 percent, to 577.48.

In trading, SK Telecom dropped 5.9 percent after the firm’s chief executive officer said that the firm had no plans to change its controversial $2.1 billion spending program for 2003. His remarks came after some investors and analysts criticized the plan as excessive.

Meanwhile, chip giant Samsung Electronics lost 3.2 percent.

Prices also ended slightly lower on the Singapore Stock Exchange, pressusred by concerns about a possible U.S.-Iraq conflict. The Straits Times Index, which slipped 4.26 points during the previous session, lost another 2.22 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,285.41.

SingTel lost 0.8 percent after reporting a 2 percent rise in its third-quarter profit buoyed by a turnaround in its Australian unit. Following the news, SingTel’s shares jumped nearly 2 percent, but profit-taking pushed shares back at the close.

Meanwhile, prices also lost ground on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, pressured by growing jitters over a possible war against Iraq and concerns about the technology sector’s weak outlook. The key Weighted Index, which sank 181.58 points during its previous session, lost 98.21 points, or 2 percent, to 4,735.37.

In trading, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing lost 5.4 percent, United Microelectronics slipped 1.5 percent.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended higher on the Australian Stock Exchange, lifted by some bargain-hunting. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which lost 30.10 points during the previous session, rose 17.90 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,886.10.

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