- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

TOKYO, Jan. 8 (UPI) — Stock prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended lower Wednesday in light trading, pressured by weakness in the banking sector.

The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which slipped 56.83 points Tuesday, lost another 138.70 points, or 1.6 percent, to 8,517.80. The broader Topix Index, which lost 6.14 points during the previous session, fell 14.38 points, or 1.7 percent, to 839.55.

Declines outgunned advances, 1,128 to 248, while 116 issues settled unchanged. Volume declined to an estimated 543.84 million shares from 676.58 million shares changing hands during the previous session.

Analysts said stocks ended lower as concern over corporate unwinding of cross-shareholdings added to the market gloom following a weak showing Tuesday on Wall Street.

After opening slightly lower, the Nikkei 225 extended its fall due in part to renewed selling of bank stocks. Lingering worries over the geopolitical situation briefly pushed the Nikkei 225 below the 8,500 level for the first time since late December.

In trading, Mizuho Holdings lost 4.8 percent, Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial fell 1.6 percent, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial sank 5.3 percent and UFJ Holdings fell 5.2 percent.

Konica lost 1.9 percent and Minolta fell 4.5 percent after the two disclosed details of their merger plan. The merged entity will still rank well behind rivals including Canon, Fuji Photo Film and Ricoh in terms of total sales.

Among some of the other active issues, Nintendo dropped 5.1 percent, Toyota fell 2.2 percent, Nissan slipped 0.9 percent, Honda eased 0.7 percent, Mazda lost 3.6 percent and Mitsubishi Motors rose 1.1 percent.

Semiconductor and personal computer manufacturers ended mostly lower on profit-taking following their recent gains. Hitachi fell 3.1 percent, Toshiba lost 2.1 percent, Mitsubishi Electric lost 2.1 percent and NEC lost 2.3 percent.

Prices on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange ended slightly higher. The blue-chip Hang Seng Index, which eased 13.56 points during the previous session, rose 35.81 points, or 0.37 percent, to 9,688.21.

Analysts said stocks ended off their best levels as new policy initiatives to reduce the territory's budget deficit laid out by Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa failed to inspire investors, who were hoping for economic stimulus measures.

Experts said there was disappointment that Tung did not produce measures to stimulate the economy in his annual policy address. He focused instead on tackling the ballooning budget deficit, pledging to take a 10-percent pay cut and look at new taxes as expected.

Among some of the active issues, property developer Henderson Land Development rose 2.2 percent, MTR Corp., which operates Hong Kong's subway but which also has substantial property developments, rose 2.4 percent and developer Sino Land rose 2 percent.

Hong Kong's main carrier Cathay Pacific Airways rose 1.4 percent, China's biggest carrier China Southern Airlines rose 4.4 percent and China Eastern Airlines gained 3.9 percent.

Stocks ended little changed on the South Korean Stock Exchange. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index, or Kospi, which lost 14.51 points during the previous session, slipped 0.48 points to 651.72.

Analysts said the market found some support on hopes for a peaceful resolution over North Korea's nuclear threat after the United States said it was willing to talk to North Korea on how it meets its obligations to the international community on its nuclear program.

In trading, Kookmin Bank dropped 2.6 percent, Korean Air rose 2.4 percent and SK Telecom added 0.4 percent.

Prices ended higher on the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The key Weighted Index, which rose 11.22 points during the previous session, jumped 135.85 points, or 2.9 percent, to 4,836.93 — its highest close since late August.

China Steel jumped 6.7 percent, Taiwan Cement rallied 6.8 percent and Far Eastern Textile jumped the daily 7 percent trading limit.

Singapore stocks ended higher. The key Straits Times Index, which fell 12.88 points during the previous session, rose 13.58 points, or 1 percent, to 1,332.32.

Elsewhere around the Pacific region, prices ended little changed in lackluster trading on the Australian Stock Exchange. The blue-chip All Ordinaries Index, which dipped 1.60 points during the previous session, slipped 0.80 point to 3,042.40.

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