- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

TOKYO, Jan. 10 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended slightly lower for the fourth consecutive session Friday, pressured by news that North Korea had decided to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which eased 19.87 points Thursday, lost another 27.48 points, or 0.3 percent, to 8,470.45, after trading as low as 8,378.18 and as high as 8,569.85. The broader Topix Index, which eased 0.22 points during the previous session, slipped 1.63 points, or 0.2 percent, to 837.70.

Declines outpaced advances, 762 to 569, while another 165 issues settled unchanged. Volume rose to an estimated 692.23 million shares from 575.53 million shares changing hands Thursday.

Markets in Tokyo will be closed Monday for a public holiday.

Analysts said despite some developments that might have been expected to support market sentiment, such as the strong gains on Wall Street Thursday and a rebound in the U.S. dollar on global currency markets, stocks pushed lower for much of the session.

The Nikkei index fell briefly below 8,400 for the first time since Dec. 24 on renewed selling prompted by the news of North Korea's withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Experts said the market's downside was supported by selected buying of high-tech and exporter stocks following the gains on Wall Street Thursday and the weakening of the yen against the dollar.

In trading, Hitachi rose 1.1 percent, NEC Corp. gained 1.2 percent,

Advantest rose 1.1 percent, Canon added 0.9 percent and NTT fell 2.3 percent. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance fell 1.3 percent, Sompo Japan Insurance dropped 4.2 percent and non-life insurer Millea Holdings declined 2.4 percent.

In an active banking sector, UFJ Holdings jumped 7.7 percent and Mizuho Holdings rose 2.6 percent.

Prices ended higher on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which slipped 12.80 points during the previous session, added 46.09 points, or 0.5 percent, to 9,721.50. Analysts said the market was supported by Thursday's gains on Wall Street.

China's largest offshore oil producer, CNOOC, rose 1.5 percent after the company said it is targeting net production volume of 134 million to 138 million barrels of oil equivalent in 2003, after record production growth in 2002. The company also said that in addition to active exploration efforts offshore China, it's also looking for opportunities to add reserves from acquisitions.

Airline stocks also advanced on hopes that the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday would boost companies' revenues. Cathay Pacific Airways rose 2.3 percent and China Southern Airline gained 2.1 percent.

Stocks ended slightly lower on the South Korean Stock Exchange. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which fell 21.32 points during the previous session, eased 2.04 points, or 0.3 percent, to 628.36 as most investors brushed aside news of North Korea's decision to pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

In trading, Hyundai Motor, the country's largest automaker, fell 1.7 percent, LG Electronics eased 0.1 percent and Kookmin Bank dropped 2.9 percent.

Prices on the Taiwan Stock Exchange ended higher, lifted by Thursday's rally on Wall Street. The key Weighted Index, which lost 23.20 points during the previous session, rose 37.07 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,850.80.

In trading, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing gained 2.6 percent despite news the world's foundry leader's sales slipped nearly 4 percent in December from the same month last year.

Meanwhile, Singapore stocks ended higher for the third consecutive session in light trading. The key Straits Times Index, which rose 2.77 points during the previous session, gained another 12.08 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,347.17.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended marginally lower in light pre-weekend trading on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which dipped 9.80 points during the previous session, slipped 0.60 point to 3,035.00.

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