- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

TOKYO, Jan. 7 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended slightly lower Tuesday, pressured by global tensions and concerns over Japan's financial system.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which rose 134.38 points Monday, slipped 56.83 points, or 0.65 percent, to 8,656.50 after being up as high as 8,829 earlier in the session. The broader Topix Index lost 6.14 points, or 0.71 percent, to 853.93.

Trading activity was described as moderate as an estimated 676.58 million shares changed during the first full session of the new year. Declines outpaced advances 868 to 465.

Analysts said stocks retreated from their best level amid concerns over global tensions and Japan's wobbly financial system despite strength in high-tech issues. Worries over growth in Japan's economy, pressured banks, retailers, property developers and other domestic-oriented issues.

Bank stocks were also weighed down by jitters over inspections by the Financial Services Agency expected this month. The inspections are part of the government's plan to implement a stricter method of assessing bank loans.

In trading, Mizuho Holdings Inc. dropped 6.3 percent on caution ahead of special government bank inspections later this month while UFJ Holdings dropped 4.2 percent.

Honda Motor added 0.5 percent, Nissan Motor rose 1.4 percent but property developer Mitsui Fudosan Co. Ltd. fell 4.2 percent.

Photography giant Minolta Co. Ltd. rose 1.5 percent and Konica Corp. eased 0.8 percent on reports they were in talks aimed at a merger to boost competitiveness against bigger rivals.

Tech exporter Sharp rose 2.5 percent on hopes that a $600-billion stimulus plan drawn up by President George W. Bush's administration can jump-start U.S. growth.

Prices on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange ended slightly lower, as worries of a U.S.-led war on Iraq prompted investors to take profits. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which rose 82.11 points during the previous session, eased 13.56 points, or 0.1 percent, to 9,652.40.

Hong Kong's own economic recovery remains slow and investors are reluctant to invest too heavily in equities while the risk of a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq in coming months lingers.

Leading the market lower was fashion retailer Esprit Holdings, which fell 3.5 percent as investors took profits on a near 5-percent gain on Monday on hopes that its business in the United States would benefit from a stronger economy there and its earnings in Europe would rise on the strengthening euro currency.

Fixed-line telephone company PCCW Ltd. lost 1.5 percent, giving up early gains as investors locked in some profits after a three-day winning streak.

China's largest PC maker Legend Group gained 1.8 percent, cell phone operator China Unicom added 0.9 percent and China Mobile ended little changed.

Stocks also ended lower on the South Korean Stock Exchange as sentiment was hurt by lingering worries over North Korea's nuclear threat. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which rose 5.61 points during the previous session, lost 14.51 points, or 2.2 percent, to 652.20.

SK Telecom lost 2.2 percent, Hyundai Motor lost 4.5 percent and Samsung Electronics fell 2 percent.

Prices ended slightly higher on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The key Weighted Index, which rose 63.54 points during the previous session, added 11.22 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,701.08.

Semiconductor-related shares led the market higher after Deutsche Securities raised its investment rating on the semiconductor equipment sector in the U.S. to buy.

In trading, the world's foundry leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing gained 1.3 percent and United Microelectronics rose 1.8 percent.

Meanwhile, Singapore stocks ended slightly lower. The Straits Times Index, which fell 8.31 points during the previous session, slipped 12.88 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,318.74.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended little changed on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which rose 19.10 points during the previous session, eased 1.60 points to 3,043.20.

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