- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

NEW YORK, March 5 (UPI) — Shares rallied in late day trading Wednesday, with investors focusing on comments by new U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow that the United States would prop up any marked decline of the dollar.

In afternoon comments, Snow reversed earlier remarks made in Capitol Hill testimony Tuesday that the United States would let the dollar plummet against the euro and the yen.

Markets slid the last two sessions and Wednesday in earlier trading, as investors grappled with concerns about a potential U.S. war against Iraq and other geopolitical risks.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average gained 70.73 points, or 0.92 percent Wednesday, to close at 7,775.60, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq index added 6.63 points, or 0.51 percent, to close at 1,314.40.

The broader New York Stock Exchange composite index gained 35.70 points to close at 4,673.75, the Standard & Poor's 500 index added 7.86 points to close at 829.85, the American Stock Exchange composite was flat, falling 1.10 points to close at 828.64, and the Wilshire 5000 Index gained 58.24 to close at 7,865.25.

Volume was 1.51 billion on the Big Board and 1.31 billion on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.

U.S. assets have taken a slide in recent days, as investors remain jittery over the prospect of a U.S. attack on Iraq. The dollar has weakened steadily against both the euro and the Japanese yen, as foreign investors in particular retreat from U.S. markets.

And while Iraq continues to destroy missiles, the Bush administration has made it clear that it still wants to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power and continues to seek U.N. support for an attack.

Meanwhile, there is growing concern about tensions in the Middle East, as another suicide bomber blew up a bus in northern Israel.

U.S. Treasury prices were up, with the 10-year bond rising 4/32 to 102 1/32. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction from its price, fell to 3.63 percent from 3.65 percent late Tuesday.

In Europe, too, stock prices were lower. The London International Stock Exchange's blue-chip FTSE-100 index was down 53.10 points at 3,572.20. The German DAX index is down 9.95 points at 2,491.08 and the French CAC-40 index was 32.83 points lower at 2,491.08.

With the poor performance of Wall Street overnight, the Asian stock market also started the day on a down footing and never quite recovered as investors remained focused on the possibility of a war in Iraq.

The Nikkei 225 Stock Average lost 0.1 percent to 8,472.62, with exports like Sony and Nissan affected by the slide in the U.S. dollar which makes their exports more expensive.

Sony lost 1.1 percent, while Nissan fell 4.7 percent and Toyota 1.0 percent. Negative sentiments was further reinforced for carmakers by the recent weak U.S. auto sales numbers.

In Hong Kong, investors shunned the budget speech, which contained little surprise after the recent leaks. A sell-off in the telecom sector sent the main index down 0.8 percent at 9,109.18. China Mobile fell 4 percent, while China Unicom was down 3 percent.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index fell 2.8 percent, closing at a 16-month low of 560.26. Geopolitical concerns related to North Korea and Iraq continued to weigh on sentiment.

In Taiwan, the main index was down 1.81 percent at 4,418.11, with technology shares leading the way down.

In Singapore, the Straits Times index finished down 0.3 percent at 1,265.50, a 19-month low. Selling on DBS Group, down 2.1 percent, pressured the overall index, but technology stocks were also hit.

The Jakarta Stock Exchange Composite index ended down 1.1 percent at 391.182, following the rest of the region. Telekomunikasi Indonesia led the decliners, down 2.2 percent.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand composite index ended down 1.28 percent at 359.90 points.

The main index in Malaysia closed down 0.95 percent at a seven-week low of 643.07, while in the Philippines the main index ended down 1.59 percent, wiping out almost all the gains of the previous three days, as investors reacted to the bombings in the south of the country.

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