Taiwan falls 1.2pc to seven-month low

THE TAIWAN stock market closed at a seven-month low on a wave of late selling after the index broke below a support level of 3,800 points, brokers said.

The weighted index ended 44.4 points - 1.2 per cent - down at 3,782.10, its lowest finish since 3,775.19 on February 12.

Stop-loss selling ''reflected weak confidence and worries about economic fundamentals, both domestically and abroad'', said Eric Ni of Taiwan International Securities.

Finance and electronic shares recorded the largest falls.

One broker said he thought some securities houses and big players were deliberately pushing the index down before a planned street protest on September 24 by investors angry about government policy towards the market.

Some players hope the protest will pressure the Securities and Exchange Commission into revising trading rules to help the market.

SYDNEY AUSTRALIAN shares continued their downward correction, dragged lower by a weaker Wall Street, hectic futures trading and a heavy fall in News Corp.

''It was lacklustre all around - it is part of an ongoing consolidation, a healthy correction,'' said John Bowie Wilson of Hambros Equities.

A firmer gold sector, after bullion prices improved overnight, helped to cushion falls.

The All Ordinaries index finished down 9.3 points at 1,903.6, after opening 3.3 points lower.

MANILA PRICES closed mixed but still looked set for another climb after profit-taking on Tuesday, dealers said.

''Prices are quite firm. We were expecting a deeper correction but there's a lot of buying support,'' said Wilson Sy, president of Wealth Securities.

The Manila index shed 2.24 points to close at 1,952.16 while Makati firmed 3.32 points to 2,007.83.

Analysts said the market appeared ready to bounce back from Tuesday's correction but they would rather see a consolidation. ''It would be better if it consolidates. But funds keep on coming whenever it tips,'' Mr Sy said.

One broker said the correction seemed to be over, and he expected the Manila index to reach 2,100 within three weeks.

SINGAPORE SHARES closed lower on profit-taking together with highly speculative Malaysian shares which had risen sharply recently, brokers said.

The prices of Malaysian shares traded over the counter, which normally account for more than 60 per cent of total turnover, fell in heavy trading, brokers said.

''The Singapore market will continue to consolidate until the Singapore Telecom issue, and then make a slow cascade,'' one senior fund manager said.

The 30-share Straits Times Industrial index fell 11.14 points to 2,001.35.

Brokers said they often cautioned retail clients on the speculative element in Malaysian OTC shares.

''But they buy with their eyes closed, throwing caution to the wind,'' one said.

''They are not interested in fundamentals.'' KUALA LUMPUR WIDESPREAD profit-taking and buying restrictions imposed on retail players by brokers pushed most shares off their highs at the close, brokers said.

Trading was hectic and wide swings in prices were seen as profit-taking alternated with aggressive buying.

The composite index dropped 1.34 points to close at 816.44, as institutions trimmed their positions in anticipation of a market correction after several days of heavy speculative trading.

''I am telling many of my clients that they have to cut down their positions,'' said a retail broker.

''I can't buy for them unless they sell something.'' BANGKOK PROFIT-TAKING pared gains on the Thai stock market, but late buying of some big-cap issues edged the index up at the close, brokers said.

The SET index closed 3.83 points higher at 992.36 on turnover of 7.96 billion baht. It had climbed to a high of 996.94 in early afternoon trade.

Brokers said prices rose in the morning as the market welcomed Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai's impending reshuffle of the cabinet to drop the Social Action party, a member of the ruling coalition which has decided to join the opposition.

But investors took profits as the SET was near the 1,000 mark.

SEOUL THE stock market finished lower in a day of lethargic and cautious trading, banishing most investors firmly to the sidelines.

Brokers said rumours that smaller companies would default on debt obligations sparked a sell-off in low-priced shares.

''With no fresh money flowing into the market, energy seemed to vanish and the buying power base is very weak,'' S.C. Woo of Tongyang Securities said.

The composite stock index shed 3.93 points to 691.44.

''I believe this is the last correction and the market will soon stabilise,'' W.K. Lee of Jardine Fleming said.

Brokers said individual investors, recent active buyers, joined the selling spree to materialise profits.

WELLINGTON THE NZSE-40 capital index closed lower for the fourth consecutive day with brokers unable to pinpoint specific reasons for the fall.

''It's negative sentiment more than anything fundamental,'' Buttle Wilson's Peter Halligan said.

He cited the stronger New Zealand dollar, bearishness in major markets, and weakness in Australia.

''It needs to get this out of the system before we have another rise,'' he said.

The NZSE-40 index fell 14.17 points to 1,949.05. It has now fallen 50 points since last Wednesday.

JAKARTA PRICES closed higher in active late trading, brokers said.

''Late hunting by local players pushed share prices up amid active trading,'' a foreign brokerage dealer said.

The Jardine index ended 0.59 points higher at 88.22.

TOKYO THE Tokyo exchange was closed for a national holiday. It will reopen today.

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