Thursday, January 2, 2003

HONG KONG, Jan. 2 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange ended slightly higher Thursday in the first trading session of the new year, lifted by strength in banks and technology issues.

Markets in Japan were closed for the New Year’s holiday and are to reopen Monday with the blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average hovering at 8,578.95 — its lowest year-end close since 1982. For the year the Nikkei lost 18.6 percent of its value.

Hong Kong’s blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which added 48.96 points during the previous session, rose 44.23 points, or 0.5 percent, to 9,365.52. The market was closed Wednesday for the New Year holiday.

Analysts said trading activity was light at the start of the year with many players still on holiday. Concerns of a U.S.-led war on Iraq coupled with uncertainty about the U.S. economy also discouraged many investors.

In trading, fixed-line phone company PCCW Ltd. jumped 4.9 percent amid speculation the company will pay off more of its hefty debt and could even pay a dividend this year.

China Mobile, China’s biggest mobile phone operator, rose 0.9 percent, ports-to-telcommunications conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa added 0.2 percent while banking giant HSBC Holdings rose 0.9 percent.

Prices ended slightly higher on the South Korean Stock Exchange in quiet post-holiday trading. The Korean Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which dropped 29.37 points Monday, added 7.62 points, or 1.2 percent, to 635.17.

Markets in South Korea were closed on Tuesday for an extended holiday.

Analysts said shares rose as small investors accumulated issues that had recently fallen.

Prices ended higher on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The Weighted Price Index, which slipped 5.30 points Tuesday, gained 72.42 points, or 1.6 percent, to 4,524.87 on buying by government-linked funds.

Meanwhile, prices ended lower on the Singapore Stock Exchange, pressured by concerns about whether the island state’s economic growth can be sustained. The Straits Times Index lost 5.09 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,335.98.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended higher on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which rose 15.00 points during the previous session, gained 20.70 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,996.20.

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