- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

SINGAPORE, Jan. 22 (UPI) — Asian stock markets closed mostly lower Wednesday following the overnight fall on Wall Street and the on-going weakness in the U.S. dollar.

Asian players remained concerns about the possibility of a war in Iraq and the negative sentiment is weighting stock exchanges in the region. General profit-takings after recent gains were also behind the selling.

In Tokyo, the Nikei-225 index lost 1.12 percent at 8,611.04 on profit-taking. Among the main losers were Canon, down 2.7 percent, and Toyota, down 1.6 percent. Mizuho Holdings continued to rise, up 2.4 percent, after it announced Tuesday it would raise new financing to clean up its loan book.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index dropped 1.6 percent to 622.49, with losses led by SK Telecom, down 3.5 percent after the company reported weak fourth-quarter earnings. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.1 percent.

The benchmark Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange Composite Index of 100 blue chips closed down 0.5 percent at 672.41 on profit taking after recent gains. Telekom Malaysia lost 0.6 percent.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand composite index fell 0.73 percent to 373.17 points also on profit-taking after recent gains. Property stocks like Land and Houses and its unit Quality Houses were leading the way down.

The 30-company Philippine Stock Exchange Index finished down 0.7 percent at 1052.44, after the government released the final 2002 budget deficit data, which reached a record high.

The rest of the region was posting small gains.

In Taiwan, buying in financial shares offset selling in the technology sector and the benchmark index closed up 0.96 percent at 4993.27. The market is anticipating further consolidation in the financial sector. Mega Financial Holding rose 6.7 percent, while SinoPac Holdings added 1.7 percent.

In Singapore, the Straits Times index rose 0.3 percent to 1369.13 on selected buying in blue chips like Singapore Press Holdings, up 2.1 percent, and SembCorp Industries, up 1.1 percent. Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation rose 3.6 percent after it reported a better-than-expected net profit for 2002.

In Jakarta, late buying helped pushed the composite index in positive territory, up 0.13 percent at 405.70 points.

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