- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

Tokyo's Nikkei average closed at a 20-year low Friday after U.S. President George W. Bush said that refusing to use force to disarm Iraq posed an unacceptable risk.

The rest of the Asian stock markets did not fare better, as investors took the comment as a further sign military action is near, and many preferred to square their positions ahead of the U.N. Security Council meeting later Friday. The meeting will study a new report on progress made by U.N. inspectors in seeking out weapons in Iraq.

U.S. chip giant Intel's downward revision of its sales outlook overnight added to the bearish sentiments in technology shares throughout the region.

The Nikkei average fell 2.69 percent to 8,144.12, the lowest close since March 1983. But fear over Iraq was not the only negative weight on the market. A wire report of an investigation into alleged stock manipulation by Nikko Salomon Smith Barney and a new political scandal added further pressures.

Japanese exporters continued to suffer from the weakness in the US dollar. Sony lost 1.85 percent, Honda Motor Co lost 3.64 percent.

The overall Korea Composite Stock Price Index fell 1.7 percent to 546.02, hitting a 16-month closing low. But buying by the National Pension Fund cushioned the fall. Samsung Electronics was also up 1.8 percent after the chipmaker announced it would buy back and cancel shares.

In Taiwan, the main index closed down 1.06 percent at 4350.59, its lowest level in nearly 5 months.

In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index lost 0.62 percent at 8,907.10 points.

The 30-company Philippine Stock Exchange Index ended down 0.1 percent at 1014.79 in thin trading, dragged down by Philippine Long Distance Telephone.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index lost 1.4 percent to 1226.15 with selling in the banking sector pressuring the overall index. DBS lost 1.1 percent, United Overseas Bank 2.1 percent and OCBC 3 percent. Chartered Semiconductor lost 2.9 percent on the back of Intel.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand Index closed 0.1 percent lower at 358.48, with Krung Thai Bank loosing 1.4 percent and TelecomAsia down 2.4 percent.

In Malaysia, the 100-share Composite Index fell 1.1 percent to 635.66.

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