- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

SINGAPORE, March 17 (UPI) — With U.S. President George W. Bush setting a Monday deadline for diplomacy with Iraq, Asian investors were jittery and stock markets ended lower across the board. Though the markets have generally priced a war with Iraq, it is the duration of such war that remains the big unknown for investors.

The U.N. Security Council is to meet on a new resolution authorizing war against Iraq. But Bush has left no doubt that the United States was ready to move, along with its allies, against Baghdad without U.N. support.

The Nikkei 225 Stock Average lost 1.6 percent to 7,871.64, just above its 20-year low of 7,862.43 set last Tuesday, with banking shares feeling the brunt of the selling. UFJ Holdings plunged 11 percent, while Mizuho Financial Group lost 8.3 percent.

In Taiwan, the TAIEX share index fell 2.64 percent to 4,357.99 in thin trading, as investors took profit after the recent rebound. Mega Financial Holdings lost 3.01 percent while China Steel fell 3.0 percent. UMC lost 1.48 percent, while TSMC fell 3.3 percent.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index dropped 4.2 percent to 515.24, with concerns about SK Global's accounting scandal reinforcing the bearish sentiment. Samsung Electronics lost 2.9 percent, while KT Corp. was down 4.1 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index fell 1.7 percent at 8,804.16. China Mobile was down 3.1 percent ahead of its earnings announcement Tuesday, while rival China Unicom lost 4.4 percent.

In Singapore, the Straits Times index fell 1.3 percent at 1234.42, with concerns about the situation in Iraq overshadowing strong exports data for February.

In the Philippines, the main composite index lost 0.45 percent at 999.46, dropping below the 1,000-point level for the first time in nearly three months. Top loser was shopping mall developer SM Prime Holdings Inc, down 1.04 percent.

The benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index lost 0.95 percent at 622.61, pressured by selling on a few blue chips like power utility Tenaga Nasional, down 1.1 percent.

The Jakarta Stock Exchange composite fell 1.35 percent to close at 382.631 on profit-taking, while in Thailand, the blue-chip SET 50 index fell 0.95 percent at 22.92 points.

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