Asian markets finish mostly weaker amid rising price of crude to record highs Asian stocks were mostly lower yesterday on renewed concerns about the United States economy and worries that surging oil prices would hurt corporate earnings. Sentiment among investors had already been negative because of falls on Wall Street at the end of last week due to jitters about inflation and interest rates. Turnover on many markets in the region was thin as investors remained on the sidelines ahead of a public holiday in most parts. There was interest in some sectors however as bargain hunters snapped up select stocks such as those linked to commodities. The biggest loser was Thailand's SET Index, down 13.31 points at 682.49, and the blue-chip SET 50 Index, down 1.09 points at 47.39. Dealers attributed the sharp falls to rising oil prices and security concerns after a series of bomb blasts in Thailand's south. Ekpittaya Aimkongeak from BFIT Securities said the market fell as soon as trade opened on security concerns after a series of bombs blasts in the southern commercial centre of Hat Yai. He said the market did not respond to daily attacks in Thailand's restive south, but the attack at Hat Yai's airport sparked concerns that the violence could escalate. In contrast, the Philippine Composite Index added 28.07 points to 1,994.36 as investors picked up bargains for the fourth consecutive session. Dealers suggested continuing caution amid record-high oil prices, rising inflation and the prospect of higher interest rates. The government will release inflation data for last month today, and the central bank holds its monthly policy-setting meeting Thursday. In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei-225 Index fell 56.09 points to 11,667.54. The broader Topix Index lost 3.35 points to 1,183.15. Uncertainty about the prospects for domestic demand resurfaced after the Bank of Japan's quarterly Tankan survey on Friday showed the index for the large manufacturers sector fell to plus 14 last month from plus 22 in December. As a result, a broad range of domestic-demand-linked shares were subject to active selling. The Korea Composite Index closed up 0.6 point at 982.5 points with market activity largely hushed ahead of a public holiday. Taipei's Weighted Index dropped 8.82 points to 6,019.93, after declines on Wall Street and lingering worries about local corporate earnings reports. In Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 17.5 points to 4,120.8 while the broader All Ordinaries Index slid 17.2 points to 4,109.2 amid concerns about high oil prices. In Singapore, the Straits Times Index rose 14.05 points to 2,157.8 on selected buying of blue chips, but high oil prices limited gains. The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index fell 8.69 points to 867.23 as blue chips and heavyweights led declines on worries over oil prices. The Jakarta Composite Index was up 5.137 points at 1,100.203 with concerns about oil prices and inflation triggering losses that were softened by interest in Telkom, ahead of its earnings results. In Wellington, the NZSX 50 Gross Index was up 6.82 points at 3,046.73 with movement among port groups attracting attention. Mumbai's Sensex Index slipped 0.62 point to 6,604.42 points as investors avoided new purchases amid worries about a fresh surge in oil prices.