- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

TOKYO, Jan. 14 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended higher Tuesday, lifted by bouts of bargain hunting.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which lost 27.48 points Friday, rose 82.61 points, or 1 percent, to 8,553.06 — its first gain in five sessions. The broader Topix Index, which eased 1.63 points during the previous session, rose 8.20 points, or 1 percent, to 845.90. Markets in Tokyo were closed Monday for a public holiday.

Volume declined to an estimated 680.63 million shares from 692.23 million shares changing hands Friday. Advances outpaced declines 1,022 to 337, while 130 issues settled unchanged.

Analysts said stocks were lifted by bargain-hunting after last week's declines, but experts added the market's upside would likely be limited due to uncertainty about fourth-quarter earnings by U.S. companies.

Experts said the gains came despite a surprisingly weak report on November machinery orders and the continued weakness of the dollar, which cuts into the returns of Japan's major exporters when their overseas sales are converted back into yen.

The government reported that core machinery orders slipped 0.2 percent in November from the previous month. Economists had been expecting a rise of 1.7 percent.

On the other hand, sentiment got a lift from gains in the banking sector, following a report that major banks are planning to boost their capital by the March end of the current fiscal year.

In trading, Toshiba gained 3.6 percent, NEC rose 3 percent, Hitachi added 1.1 percent, Nikon, which is a close business partner of Intel, jumped 5.1 percent, Tokyo Electron gained 5 percent and Advantest jumped 6.5 percent.

In an active banking sector, Mizuho Holdings gained 1 percent, UFJ Holdings jumped 4.5 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group added 0.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the dollar's fall to below 119 yen mildly affected select export-heavy auto shares. Toyota Motor slipped 1.3 percent, and Honda Motor eased 0.5 percent.

Elsewhere in Asia, prices ended slightly lower in moderate trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which rose 112.58 points during the previous session, eased 37.77 points, or 0.4 percent, to 9,796.31.

In trading, Cathay Pacific surged 4.4 percent, its highest close since early September, following a report that the airline was negotiating with its smaller Hong Kong airline Dragonair to enter China.

HSBC Holdings lost 0.6 percent, Television Broadcast lost 2.1 percent, Chinese truck maker Qingling Motors lost 3.7 percent and China's largest independent power producer Huaneng Power International fell 2.2 percent.

Prices ended slightly higher on the South Korean Stock Exchange, but gains were limited due to lingering concerns over North Korea's nuclear plans. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which rose 19.52 points during the previous session, added 1.99 points, or 0.3 percent, to 650.05.

The United States, which earlier cut off food aid to North Korea, is considering helping North Korea overcome its severe energy shortages if Pyongyang abandons its nuclear weapon program. The news came after North Korea last Friday announced the country's withdrawal from nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

In trading, Hyundai Motor jumped 3.3 percent, Samsung Electronics lost 1.8 percent and Hynix Semiconductor fell 4.6 percent.

Prices inched higher on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, rising to their highest level in more than five months. The key Weighted Index, which rose 140.41 points during the previous session, added another 1.16 points, or 0.02 percent, to 4,992.42.

In trading, display maker AU Optronics gained 1.2 percent but United Microelectronics lost 0.8 percent.

Meanwhile, Singapore stocks ended higher for the fifth consecutive session in moderate trading. The key Straits Times Index, which rose 38.88 points during the previous session, rose another 15.32 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,401.37.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended slightly higher in light trading on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which added 7.40 points during the previous session, rose 6.50 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,049.00.

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