Singapore hits record close

THE 30-share Straits Times Industrial Index climbed to a new closing high of 1,773.21 but fell short of a new all-time high of 1,781.39 as profit-taking outdid selective buying.

The index, whose previous closing high was 1,772.02 set on Monday, was 3.15 points up from Wednesday's close.

It rose to an intra-day high of 1,779.78 but fell short of the all-time high of 1,781.39 set on Monday.

Brokers said investors bought warrants actively, looking for cheaper prices to participate in the market's rally.

Malaysian over-the-counter stocks accounted for most of the volume of 285.58 million shares. Wednesday's volume was 300.14 million shares. KUALA LUMPUR SHARE prices retreated after early gains to close lower on profit-taking and some forced selling.

The KLSE Composite Index closed down 0.25 points at 691.45, ending a four-day record closing streak.

The index hit a new high of 701.32 in early trade on further institutional and speculative buying.

''Players are expected to take profits after the strong surge in quality stocks,'' said a dealer.

Turnover was 337.9 million shares against 474.3 million on Wednesday. Losers led gainers by 223 to 125.

TAIPEI STOCKS closed sharply higher on buying of industrials after parliament on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to copyright laws designed to avert threatened US trade sanctions.

The Weighted Index rose in early trade and a late, strong wave of buying pushed it up further to close 149.06 points or 3.3 per cent higher at 4,631.69.

Turnover rose to NT$49.68 billion from Wednesday's $31.44 billion.

''Rises today were mostly due to the news from parliament and a technical rebound after recent falls,'' Mr Hong Chi-ming of Top Soon Portfolio Securities said yesterday.

SEOUL STOCKS ended on another 20-month high with electronics and chip shares, particularly Samsung group counters, leading the field.

''The day's trading was volatile with the index fluctuating in a range bound of 735.19 to 743.13, '' a Coryo Securities broker said.

''We saw the market penetrating the 740 mark. If another attempt is made tomorrow, we may soon reach the 800 level,'' a foreign analyst said yesterday.

Trading volume reached 61.3 million shares, while turnover was at a year's high of just over one trillion won.

TOKYO STOCKS ended lower for the fifth consecutive day after a roller coaster session, shedding early gains in the afternoon as the yen turned firmer.

The market was likely to remain fragile for a while as it consolidated following the big gains since March, brokers said.

The 225-share Nikkei Average fell 181.7 points or 0.92 per cent to 19,591.31, with an estimated 380 million shares traded.

Turnover was about 380 million shares compared with 395 million on Wednesday.

MANILA PRICES rose as investors tried to shake off fears caused by the government's takeover of the board of directors of market leader Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT).

''The market is realising they may have overreacted to the fears of a government takeover of PLDT. Nerves are settling down. It will still take time before the market really stabilises,'' said Mr Louie Bate of Baring Securities.

The Manila Stock Exchange Composite Index climbed 7.94 points to end at 1,540.7 from Wednesday's close of 1,532.76. WELLINGTON FUELLED by strong interest in forestry stocks, the market closed strongly near all-time highs for the NZSE-40 Index.

''It was driven up by Fletcher Challenge and Carter Holt Harvey and spilled over into the other leaders,'' said Mr Peter Halligan of broker Buttle Wilson.

The NZSE-40 closed at 1,627.12, up 1.38 per cent on the day and a whisker away from the 1,627.31 record high of the 21/2-year-old index.

SYDNEY STOCKS pushed back above the key 1,700-level as banks continued to attract interest.

The All Ordinaries Index closed up 11.5 points at 1,705.4.

Among banks, Westpac surged to its highest level since June 9 last year, amid speculation about a major institution taking a position in the bank.

National turnover was 254.5 million shares worth A$412.2 million with rises beating falls by about two to one.

BANGKOK THE SET Index jumped 9.59 points to close at 899.01 points.

Trading was light with 55.89 million shares worth 4.2 billion baht changing hands.

One broker said the SET jumped on last-minute buying of bank stocks after Krung Thai Bank announced a first-quarter dividend 245 per cent above the dividend paid in the same period last year.

JAKARTA THE market was dominated by profit-taking, with prices ending mostly lower.

''Trading was active but it was not as active as in the past few days. Many investors gave up their shares for profit-taking,'' a broker said.

The official index closed at 311.28, down from Wednesday's 312.

The Chinese share prices are provided by Telerate. All other prices are provided by Reuter.