- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

SINGAPORE, March 19 (UPI) — Most Asian stock markets moved higher Wednesday, with investors betting on a quick U.S.-led war on Iraq — should such a battle begin— which would have minimal disruption on the U.S. economy.

However, overall activity was light as investors remained cautious about taking large positions because of the prospect of war.

Markets in Tokyo, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore were in the black, but Taiwan and Thailand finished lower.

Technology stocks were generally higher, partially in anticipation of a recovery in the global technology sector based on the latest U.S. data from the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International's Express Report.

The Nikkei 225 rose 1.2 percent to 8,051.04, with several blue chips lending support. Advantest rose 1.7 percent, Toshiba added 3.9 percent and Nissan Motor gained 2.7 percent. Technology shares were also broadly higher with Kyocera up 2.8 percent and Sony up 0.23 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose 1.29 percent at 9,158.59. Heavyweights such as conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, up 5.7 percent, and property developer Cheung Kong, up 6 percent, lend support. Both companies are to report their 2002 earnings Thursday.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index ended up 0.8 percent at 541.78 with good foreign buying interest reported. Samsung Electronics fell 1 percent, but SK Telecom jumped 4.4 percent.

In Singapore, the Strait Times index closed up 3.2 percent at 1,285.01 though trading was subdued. Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing rose 2.3 percent, while ST Assembly gained 2.4 percent.

In Taiwan, the TAIEX index ended down 0.54 percent at 4,515.07, reflecting losses in the petrochemical sector. Formosa Plastics fell 2.18 percent, while Nan Ya Plastics was down 1.44 percent. But contract chipmaker TSMC rose 1.91 percent, while rival UMC was up 1.89 percent.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index closed down 0.5 percent to 361.13 with some profit-taking noted. Oil-related shares moved lower, reflecting the falling oil prices, with PTT Exploration & Production, down 2.4 percent and its parent PTT, down 1.2 percent.

The Philippine composite index climbed for a third straight session, up 1.48 percent to end at 1,020.46, while the Kuala Lumpur's 100-stock Composite Index nudged up 0.14 percent.

The 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index closed up 1.2 percent at 3,121.18.




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