- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

SINGAPORE, March 28 (UPI) — Asian stock markets finished the week mixed as investors paid close attention to developments in Iraq and the impact of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS, on airlines and tourism-related companies.

The disruption caused by the SARS outbreak is growing rapidly, with flights being cut, schools closed in Hong Kong and Singapore and hundreds of people in the two cities under quarantine.

Airlines were especially hurt by the selling, with Japan Airlines System down 4.8 percent, Qantas down 13 percent, Singapore Airlines down 3.7 percent and Cathay Pacific down 4.6 percent.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei average fell 1.1 percent to close at 8280.16 with blue-chips leading the way down. Canon fell 2.7 percent, Advantest lost 3.5 percent and Nissan was down 2.4 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng ended 0.10 percent down at 8863.36. Bargain-hunting on a few retailer helped cushioned the fall. Department store operator Jusco Stores rebounded 1.8 percent, while clothing retailer Giordano rose 1 percent.

In Taiwan, the main index lost 0.8 percent to end at 4477.01 in quiet trading.

But the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (Kospi) rose 1.3 percent on the back of a report in the Financial Times saying that a diplomatic solution to the North Korean dispute with the U.S. is within reach.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index closed 0.4 percent higher at 1318.43, with buying interest in Singapore Telecom and DBS, up 1.1 percent.

In Malaysia, the KLSE Composite Index rose 0.3 percent to close at 634.96 points, helped by late buying from government-linked funds in blue-chips stocks like Malayan Banking and Tenaga Nasional. Leisure-related stocks were sold down on the back of SARS affecting tourism and Resorts World lost 1.2 percent, while Genting lost 2.2 percent.

Meanwhile, Indian stocks ended little changed in light pre-weekend trading as investors opted for the sidelines amid concerns over the length of the war in Iraq. The 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index, or Sensex, which lost 26.79 points during the previous session, eased 1.35 points to 3,115.44.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index ended up 0.2 percent at 369.53. Thai Airways shares managed to buck the trend in the aviation industry and closed up 0.8 percent.

The Jakarta Composite Index gained 0.77 percent to 404.43 points in thin trading.

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