PRICES closed off an all-time high on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange yesterday as profit-taking set in due to investor caution after the strong run-up which started late last week. But the market still has the underlying strength to extend its rally on the back of strong retail interest, brokers say. ''The market is still hot,'' said one broker. A late fall in Telekom Malaysia shaved 3.36 points off the KLSE composite index, which tracks blue chips, to close at 846.56. The index had earlier hit an all-time high of 853.99 points. Telekom closed down 40 cents at M$16.70 after touching a high of $17.40. Activity was again dominated by stocks driven by rumours. KLI Holdings rose 26 cents to $3.06 on rumours of a private power plant project while Malakoff surged 70 cents to $7.75 on a share placement. Turnover was 621.4 million shares against 603.6 million on Tuesday. Gainers led losers by 202 to 156. TAIPEI PRICES finished lower on selling in speculative stocks and pessimism over a lack of positive news. The Weighted Index ended 15.77 points lower at 3,832.69, from a low of 3,813, on turnover of NT$11.27 billion. The market will close for a holiday today and reopens tomorrow. Weakness in speculative stocks triggered overall selling, brokers said. Ever Fortune ended limit down at $72.50. ''Bargain-buying may emerge around the 3,800-point support level, but the near-term downtrend will not be reversed,'' said Tu Jin-long of Grand Cathay Securities. China Steel plunged 60 cents to $17.80 on media reports that the Government was again making plans to resume its privatisation of the company this fiscal year, although a timetable and details have not been decided. WELLINGTON THE market finished another dull day of consolidation slightly lower. Brokers expect the current quiet phase to continue up until the November 6 election although turnover was boosted by reasonable volumes in Lion and Telecom. The NZSE-40 Capital Index closed down 3.27 points at 1,926.68 on a volume of NZ$38 million. Telecom closed unchanged at $3.92 and Lion ended down five cents at $3.17. Brierley and Carter Holt Harvey were both unchanged on $1.21 and $3.36, respectively. Brokers said the market was currently driven by orders rather than fundamental factors and it drifted lower on lack of interest rather than anything else. ''The market has come a long way,'' said Campbell Johnstone at Hendry Hay McIntosh, arguing that foreign institutions were comfortable with investments made during the market run in the last few months. TOKYO STOCKS were pulled down by futures to end lower but off intraday lows. They were supported by index-linked buying in the afternoon, brokers said. The Nikkei Average temporarily plunged below the 20,000 level, but rebounded later. ''The Nikkei's fall below 20,000 is not very significant, as investors are now focusing on trading incentive-backed issues that are not in the average,'' said Masaharu Sakudo, managing director at Tachibana Securities. The Nikkei Average was down 95.31 points or 0.47 per cent to 20,077.41, with 300 million shares traded. The broader first section TOPIX index fell 5.21 points or 0.32 per cent to 1,617.86. The market opened weaker, defying hopes that investment trusts and government insurance and pension funds would continue to buy, as they did on Tuesday, to prop up the market's downside. Brokers said their presence was minimal. ''Buying from investment trusts was also limited to shares which are not in the Nikkei Average,'' Mr Sakudo said. The initial declines set off unwinding of arbitrage-linked trade. The Nikkei's subsequent fall to a two-month low of 19,927.69 in mid-morning was exaggerated by thin volume. After the Nikkei recovered above 20,000, share prices fluctuated narrowly in the afternoon. Possible stop-loss selling linked to the expiration of margin contracts next month was the main reason for investor reluctance to buy shares in the index, brokers said. Some estimate that about 750 billion yen in contracts will expire in October and 680 billion in November. SYDNEY AFTER a slow start to the day, shares ended at their highs, dragged up by end-of-quarter window dressing. Brokers said further gains by BHP and News Corp also lent the market support. ''The market has gone for a bit of a run with the end of the quarter,'' said a broker at Bain Securities. ''But it was otherwise quiet with nothing to get bullish about.'' The All Ordinaries ended 9.1 points higher at 1,951.4 after starting at 1,944. News Corp shares rose 12 cents to close at a new closing high of A$10.92. They struck an intra-day high of $10.96 on a turnover of 4.38 million shares. BHP ended 16 higher at $16.16. It said earlier it did not know whether its diamond mine project in Canada with joint-venture partner Dia Met Minerals would proceed. Developing the find could cost about US$400 million. National turnover was about 157.7 million shares worth A$356.2 million with slightly more stocks falling than rising. The All Industrials index ended 11.9 points higher at 3,066.7 and the All Resources rose 7.2 to 1,096.9. SINGAPORE PRICES finished easier and investors were sidelined as Singapore's main corporate reporting season drew to an end this week. Malaysian shares over the counter however would continue to generate the turnover, brokers said. ''Most of the results are out. Investors, who want to be in the market, are awaiting news of Singapore Telecom's listing scheduled next month,'' one broker said. The 30-share Straits Times Industrial Index rose 0.14 point to 1,989.28. DBS foreign made substantial gains, rising 50 cents to S$13.90 after falls in the morning. Total volume was 317.04 million shares against 356.7 million on Tuesday. Falls led gains by 186 to 112. BANGKOK PRICES slid further in the afternoon but buying on some major capitalisation issues just before the close edged the index up. The SET Index lost 2.48 points to close at 966.02 on small turnover of 3.48 billion baht. Losers almost doubled winners, 151 to 81, with 95 stocks unchanged. Brokers said investors remained concerned over the situation in Russia and how the new rules on margin requirements, effective from tomorrow, would affect their portfolios. They said the new rules would force sale of stocks if their prices fell to certain levels. ''Many people may just want to wait until October 1 to see what is going to happen,'' said a broker at Phatra Thanakit. ''I think the index will move sideways at the moment.'' JAKARTA PRICES closed mixed after moderate trading, with some counters showing signs of recovery. ''There were signs of rebounds on oversold counters. Market sentiment improved during the second session,'' a foreign brokerage dealer said. The official index ended 1.11 points higher at 419.5. The Seoul market was closed for a national holiday. The Chinese share prices are provided by Telerate. All other prices are provided by Reuter.