- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

SINGAPORE, March 13 (UPI) — Most Asian stock markets resumed a downward course Thursday after a small rebound as investors quickly took profits and sentiments continued to be dominated by the possible conflict in Iraq.

The Nikkei 225 Stock Average dropped 0.9 percent to 7,868.56, with investors waiting for details from the government on possible measure to boost weak stock prices. After the market closed the government announced a 6-point plan drawn up by the Financial Services Agency that would ease rules on firms buying back their own shares and restrict short-selling.

In Taiwan, the main TAIEX index bucked the trend, rising 1.17 percent at 4,378.99 on continued bargain hunting from a five-month low. TSMC rose 2.56 percent after Nvidia Corp, one of its major clients, announced the introduction of new graphic chips for laptops.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index also closed up 0.3 percent with a few blue chips lending support. Oil and gas giant PTT rose 2.3 percent, while Siam Cement, the country's largest industrial conglomerate, added 1 percent.

But the rest of Asia moved lower.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index lost 0.99 percent at 8,787.45, dragged down by the property sector. Sun Hung Kai Properties lost 2.4 percent after the company reported disappointing half-year result. Sino Land was also down 3.4 percent and Cheung Kong Holdings down 1.8 percent.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index finished down 0.03 points at 531.78, with last-minute buying interest lifting the index at the close. But trading continued to fall in the shadow of the SK Global accounting scandal. SK Group-related stocks fell with SK Corp down 15 percent, SK Securities down 11 percent and SK Gas down 4.4 percent.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index declined 0.2 percent to 1,231.77, with Singapore Press Holdings, down 1.2 percent, dragging it lower. The banking sector also continued to bear the brunt of the selling, with DBS down 1.1 percent and UOB down 1 percent.

The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index closed down 0.26 percent to 627.46 points, pressured by selling on selected blue-chips like Tenaga Nasional and Telekom Malaysia.

The Jakarta Composite Index fell 0.88 percent to 383.86 points in quiet trading. The largest capitalized firm in the market, PT Telkom, dropped 2.21 percent.

Philippine shares ended unchanged in light trading, as most investors remained sideline.

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