- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

TOKYO, Jan. 30 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended lower for a fifth consecutive session Thursday, settling just above a two-decade low, pressured by concerns over the threat of war in Iraq.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which fell 194.31 points Wednesday, slipped 14.27 points, or 0.17 percent, to 8,316.81 — just above its 20-year closing low of 8,303.39 on March 25, 1983.

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The broader Topix Index, which lost 15.40 points during the previous session, eased 0.56 points, or 0.07 percent, to 825.16.

The market opened higher on a rally in technology issues, following Sony's announcement after the market closed Wednesday that profit nearly doubled in the October-December quarter on year.

But the rally soon ran out of steam as investors began selling later in the session. Analysts said blue chip stocks came under selling pressure from institutional selling amid growing worries over a United States led war with Iraq and as domestic earnings weighed on market sentiment.

In trading, Toshiba dropped 2.6 percent, videogame maker Nintendo sank 5.7 percent, Sony Corp. rose 0.2 percent, camera and office equipment maker Canon Inc. rose 2.9 percent ahead of its 2002 earnings and Hitachi climbed 3.1 percent.

Ito-Yokado Co. Ltd., Japan's largest retailer, sank 4.1 percent on heavy selling by banks, insurers and corporate pension funds. Toyota Motor Corp. lost 1.1 percent, also hit by institutional selling.

Elsewhere in Asia, prices ended slightly higher in light post holiday trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which lost 84.81 points during the previous session, rose 18.16 points, or 0.2 percent to 9,258.95.

Analysts said stocks edged higher as oil companies and mainland firms posted gains in quiet dealings ahead of the Chinese New Year that will have the market closed from Friday through Monday.

In trading, Cathay Pacific Airways added 0.4 percent while HSBC Holdings closed steady.

Prices ended higher on the South Korean Stock Exchange in a technical rebound after falling to a 15-month low in the previous session. The Korean Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which lost 17.21 points during the previous session, rose 8.51 points, or 1.5 percent, to 591.86.

SK Telecom led the market higher, climbing 3.5 percent on news that Morgan Stanley has raised its recommendation on the mobile giant to overweight from equal-weight.

Hynix Semiconductor jumped 6.8 percent following local reports that Trigem Communications was in talks to buy Hynix's unit Imagequest.

South Korea's stock market will be closed Friday for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Prices ended at a month low on the Singapore Stock Exchange. The key Straits Times Index, which dropped 36.84 points during the previous session, lost another 6.96 points, to 1,295.89. Analysts said stocks fell on nagging concerns about an imminent war in the Middle East and a possible standoff closer to home with neighboring Malaysia over water supplies and a disputed island.

Contract chip manufacturer Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing lost 0.7 percent. The company on Wednesday reported a narrower-than-expected net loss for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended slightly higher on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which dropped 10.60 points during the previous session, rose 13.10 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,943.00.

Australian shares finished moderately higher, underpinned by gains in banks and media stocks, experts said.

The Taiwan Stock Exchange was closed Thursday for the Chinese New Year holidays. The market will remain closed until next Thursday after the Weighted Index rose 42.57 points to 5,015.16 during Tuesday's session.

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