- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

TOKYO, Jan. 28 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended lower for the third consecutive session Tuesday, pressured by weakness in export issues.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which fell 122.18 points Monday, lost 84.08 points, or 0.98 percent, to 8,525.39. The broader Topix Index, which lost 11.33 points in the previous session, lost 8.91 points, or 1.05 percent, to 841.12.

Volume declined to an estimated 763.14 million shares from 809 million shares changing hands Monday.

Analysts said growing concerns of a potential conflict in Iraq rattled investors and dampened the earnings outlook for Japan's high-tech and auto exporters. Experts also said investors have been shifting funds into defensives that are more dependent on the domestic economy and less vulnerable to a firmer Japanese yen.

Meanwhile, underlying the fragility of Japan's economic recovery, data before the opening showed that retail sales fell for the 21st consecutive month in December as concerns over falling incomes and employment prospects kept consumers from spending.

On the earnings front, Fujitsu Ltd. started off the quarterly earnings season for electronics firms with a net loss and banks were hit by profit-taking after last week's gains.

Fujitsu, Japan's largest computer maker, fell 2.2 percent after it posted a group net loss for the period October through December. It also trimmed its revenue outlook for 2002/03 but maintained its profit estimates for the year.

Among some of the other active issues, Sony Corp., which is expected to report its quarterly earnings Wednesday, lost 1.2 percent, banking giant, Mizuho Holdings Inc. sank 5.3 percent.

East Japan Railway Co., Japan's biggest railway operator, rose 1.6 percent and Japan's top retailer, Ito-Yokado Co. Ltd. lost 3.2 percent.

Prices ended higher in moderate trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which fell 161.93 points during the previous session, rose 26.93 points, or 0.3 percent, to 9,325.60.

Analysts said the market ended slightly higher with exporters such as Johnson Electric and Li & Fung outperforming the broader market. But sentiment remained cautious on lingering uncertainties over Iraq.

In trading, Johnson Electric, which makes mini motors used in power tools and other products, jumped 5.2 percent while garment exporter and supply chain manager Li & Fung rose 2.01 percent.

China's largest offshore oil producer CNOOC Ltd. lost 1.5 percent after oil prices fell 3 percent in New York Monday after U.N. arms inspectors offered little evidence that Iraq is hiding banned weapons, temporarily easing fears of a U.S. attack on Iraq.

Meanwhile, International Bank of Asia Ltd. surged 13.46 percent, resuming trade after Malaysia's Hong Leong Bank said it was one of the suitors for a stake in IBA.

Prices also ended higher on the South Korean Stock Exchange. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which lost 16.34 points during the previous session, rose 1.3 percent to 600.56 as investors hunted for bargains.

Chip giant Samsung Electronics rose 2.7 percent, LG Electronics jumped 2.3 percent and SK Telecom eased 0.3 percent.

Prices ended slightly higher on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The key Weighted Index, which lost 84.73 points during the previous session, rose 0.9 percent, to 5,015.16, as non-technology issues gained ground.

Experts noted market sentiment remained fragile as investors were reluctant to trade actively ahead of the long holiday. The market will be closed from Wednesday until Feb. 6 for the Chinese New Year holidays.

In trading, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing dropped 2.5 percent after reporting an unexpected drop in its fourth quarter profits.

Macronix International lost 2.1 percent after the company reported a worse-than-expected loss in 2002.

Meanwhile, prices ended slightly higher on the Singapore Stock Exchange. The key Straits Times Index, which lost 26.79 points during the previous session, added 0.7 percent to 1,340.16.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended lower in light post-holiday trading on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which added 2.30 points during Friday's session, fell 2 percent to 2,940.50. Markets in Sydney were closed on Monday for a national holiday.

In trading, News Corp. dropped 5.7 percent, BHP Billiton sank 3.6 percent and Rio Tinto dropped 3.1 percent.

Gold stocks also lost ground despite strength in the price of spot gold on global markets. Lihir Gold lost 4.5 percent.




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