- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

SINGAPORE, March 26 (UPI) — Asian stock markets ended mixed, with many markets unable to hold on to earlier gains achieved on the back of news reports of an uprising within Iraq against Saddam Hussein's forces. With great uncertainty remaining over the allied progress in Iraq, investors quickly took profits, and Seoul, Taipei and Hong Kong ended in the red.

Tokyo escaped the selling, as buying of high-tech stocks such as Ricoh lent support. The Nikkei average rose 1.37 percent to close at 8351.92. NTT DoCoMo, the largest issue on the Tokyo bourse by market capitalization, added 1.76 percent.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index ended up 1.04 percent at 1,325, supported by interest in media group Singapore Press Holdings, up 1.63 percent on expectations the company will pay a hefty dividend when it announces its half-year results Friday.

But in Taiwan, the TAIEX share index slipped 0.06 percent to close at 4,496. Shipping stocks fell on concerns about rising freight rates resulting from disruption to traffic in the Persian Gulf. Technology shares remained in favor with TSMC up 0.86 percent.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index closed down 0.03 percent to 554.79, with technology giant Samsung Electronics, down 0.65 percent and Kookmin Bank down 0.29 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index ended down 0.17 percent, or 15.06 points, lower at 9,047.09. Market participants who remain hopeful that war will be over within two months dipped into medium and small cap export-related stocks such as consumer power tool maker Techtronic Industries Co Ltd on the view that once war ends global economic recovery and consumer confidence, will resume.

Meanwhile, Indian stocks ended almost flat for the second consecutive session after profit-taking erased most of the early gains driven by Tuesday's gains on Wall Street.

The 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index, or Sensex, which added 0.06 points during the previous session, improved 3.16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,143.58 points, off the day's high of 3,165.38.

Analysts said they expect trading to be in a narrow range until the market gets a clearer picture about where the Iraq war is headed.

The 30-company Philippine Stock Exchange Index ended up 0.5 percent, with good demand for SM Prime, up 1 percent and Ayala Land up 1.1 percent.

The Kuala Lumpur's 100-stock Composite Index ended up 0.53 percent at 632.99 points.

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