- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

SINGAPORE, March 6 (UPI) — Most Asian stock markets continued their downward trend Thursday, with Tokyo closing near a 20-year low as the on-going weakness of the U.S. dollar worried investors. The Philippines and Indonesia escaped the selling on technical rebounds.

The benchmark 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average dived 1.22 percent to close at 8,369.15, with the selling focusing on exporters, whose earnings will be affected by a weaker dollar. The U.S. currency has been under pressure on concerns about the strength of the U.S. economic recovery, especially if there is a war in Iraq.

In Taiwan, the TAIEX share index lost 0.47 percent to close at 4,397.44, a four-month low. China Steel was the most active stock, down 3.7 percent.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index fell 1.61 percent to 8,962.26, dragged down by selling on Cathay Pacific Airways, down 3.85 percent and China Unicom, down 5.9 percent.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index fell 0.87 per cent at 555.53, as investors remain concerned about the situation in North Korea and Iraq. Among blue chips, Hyundai Motor and POSCO fell for the third day in a row.

In Singapore, the Straits Times index finished down 1.7 percent to 1243.82, dragged lower by the banking sector on the back of disappointing results for 2002. DBS lost 2.7 percent, UOB was down 4.4 5percent and OCBC 2.9 percent.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the main index dropped 0.1 percent to 642.43 in quite trading.

Bucking the trend, the 30-company Philippine Stock Exchange Index ended up 0.6 percent at 1015.72 on a technical rebound after falling sharply on the back of Tuesday's bomb blast in the southern Philippines.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. rose 2.6 percent, while Bank of the Philippine Islands rose 1.6 percent.

The Jakarta Composite Index was also up 0.72 percent to 393.99 points in thin trading, with buying interest in the telecom and banking sectors lending support. PT Telkom rose 0.74 percent, while Bank Central Asia added 3.23 percent.

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