- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

SINGAPORE, March 12 (UPI) — Most Asian stock markets posted small gains Wednesday in what was seen as a technical rebounds after days of decline. But traders warned prospect of a war in Iraq would continue to weigh on the market and cautioned that the rebound was mainly on the back of bargain-hunting.

The Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 1.0 percent to 7943.04 on short-covering, after six consecutive days of losses. A strengthening of the dollar was helping Japanese exporters (as it makes their products cheaper to export), with Sony up 2 percent and Hitachi up 4.6 percent.

Banking shares, which had been sold off over the past few days, also saw some interest, with Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group rising 7.3 percent and Mitsubishi Tokyo Financial Group adding 2.9 percent.

In Taiwan, the main index closed up 1.6 percent at 4328.15, lifted by technology stocks. TSCM gained 1.2 percent and UMC 1 percent after local newspapers said both are gaining new orders from U.S. chipmakers.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index added 0.17 percent at 8,874.99 on bargain-hunting in the telecom sector with China Mobile adding 1.9 percent. But the property sector weighted on the market, with Sino Land down 1.11 percent and Hang Lung Properties Ltd down 2 percent.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index gained 1.4 percent to 1233.68, led by property shares, which rebounded from their recent losses. Keppel Land added 7.3 percent, while City Developments gained 5.9 percent.

The Jakarta Stock Exchange composite index rose 2.08 percent at 7.896 points, while the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index ended up 1.60 percent at 629.10, helped by gains on blue chips like Tenaga Nasional, up 4.5 percent, and Telekom Malaysia, up 1.4 percent.

The benchmark Stock Exchange of Thailand composite index rose 0.42 percent at 352.44 points, with buying on a few blue-chips lending support.

But the Korea Composite Stock Price Index ended off 0.1 percent at 531.81, after news prosecutors are investigating the SK Group, the country's third-largest conglomerate, for accounting irregularities at its affiliate SK Global. Hana Bank, the main creditor for SK Global, dropped 15 percent, while SK Global was also down 15 percent.

In Manila, the main index lost 0.3 percent at 1000.44, with SM Prime the most actively traded stocks, down 3.1 percent.

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