TOKYO stocks ended higher on selective blue chip buying, with sentiment lifted after chances increased that official pump-priming measures could emerge soon. The Nikkei touched a high of 17,911.99, just under the psychological 18,000 mark. It closed at 17,789.28, 300.13 points or 1.72 per cent. ''Prices will hold steady around this level for the year if nothing drastic happens and the currency market does not turn too volatile,'' said one Big Four broker. An estimated 330 million shares were traded, up from 238 million on Wednesday. Brokers said however that market participants were limited and institutions still were at bay. Export-oriented electricals attracted heavy buying from foreigners and investment trust funds. These issues gained on the back of the lower yen and on their good business prospects as multi-media related companies, brokers said. Advancing issues led decliners by nine to one, with 963 higher, 100 lower and 105 unchanged. SINGAPORE THE 30-share Straits Times Industrial index finished at a new closing high of 2,285.99, but profit-taking amid talk of brokers re-imposing tighter trading conditions dampened speculative trade in the afternoon. The index, up 14.75 points from Wednesday, was off the day's intra-day high of 2,294.5. Brokers welcomed the profit-taking, saying the market needed a break after running high since last week. ''The market eased off but one can't complain. It cannot go up every day,'' a Lim and Tan Securities director said. Speculative investors largely shrugged off the successful conclusion of GATT. They said the outcome had already been factored into the market for the past few days. MANILA THE Manila Stock Exchange rose 1.82 per cent to a record high as local buyers continued to position themselves for the expected economic recovery next year. The index closed at 2,614.52, an increase of 46.69 points over Wednesday's 2,567.83. It marked the eighth time in the past 10 days that the market has closed higher. Trading was light, with total volume valued at 609 million pesos. Gainers beat losers by 49 to 26, with a total of 105 issues traded. All sectors rose. Evan King, an analyst with Sapphire Securities, said the market was driven higher largely by San Miguel Corp, the country's food and beverage giant. After failing to rise during the recent bull run, San Miguel A shares soared eight pesos to close at 121 pesos. SEOUL STOCKS closed at a year high on buying of blue chips, disregarding a change of prime minister and early profit-taking. The composite index closed 4.86 points or 0.56 per cent higher at 870.72, supplanting the previous closing high of 866.88 on December 11. Market turnover was 1.07 trillion won. ''Institutional backing on the bluest of blue chips drove the market,'' said a broker at Daewoo Securities, adding that this was due to their fundamental strength. Losers outpaced gainers two to one as investors focused on primary blue chips. ''Everyone is selling out to switch their positions to blue-chip counters,'' said a Hyundai Securities broker. Brokers said the market was not influenced by the prime minister's resignation and replacement. KUALA LUMPUR STOCKS finished easier as investors sold for profits after four days of good gains. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange's 85-stock weighted composite index shed 3.5 points to end at 1,112.59 from its record finish of 1,116.09 on Wednesday. Volume moderated to 800 million shares worth M$3.7 billion from 889.5 million shares worth $4.6 billion on Wednesday. Losers led gainers by 209 to 180. ''The breather is not surprising for a market which has been going so strong,'' an analyst said. Brokers said they expected the market to quieten and cool with the approach of Christmas and the new year. ''But it will pick up strongly in the early part of next year,'' the analyst said. Kamunting was the most actively traded stock with 70.07 million shares transacted. It rose 54 cents to close at $3.22. SYDNEY STOCKS closed mixed, reflecting lower world metals and oil prices, relief that the GATT round of world trade talks ended in agreement, concern about inflation prospects in the United States, and a decline in attention as investors turn to merrier pre-holiday pursuits. The All Ordinaries index closed up 4.9 points at 2,074.8. ''The market usually goes to sleep between now and Christmas,'' said James Perry, an investment consultant at brokers D&D Tolhurst. ''It's very hard to attract the attention of investors.'' He said general improvement in world metals prices and signs of growth in the US pointed to higher share prices once the holiday season ended. ''We take the view that we could see a strong market in the first quarter next year,'' he said. Eric Gale, a director at Ord Minnett, said investor were watching for signs of inflation in the US, as reflected by rising bond yields there. ''Markets will be watching closely what happens in the US,'' he said, noting that capacity utilisation rates in November rose to their highest level in four years. ''That indicates inflation territory,'' he said. WELLINGTON LOCAL investors nudged out foreign investors to dominate trading in a burst of pre-Christmas market activity prompted in part by a surge in the local dollar to a two-year high. The NZSE 40 Capital index closed up 9.92 points at 2,099.22. The dollar surged to a two-year high of 56.11 US cents. Chris West, a dealer with CS First Boston, said the rise followed strong buying by New York investment banks overnight. He said that reflected their confidence in new Finance Minister Bill Birch's re-affirmation of no change in economic policy. ''There is also a positive view that GATT will bring benefits to the economy,'' Mr West said. BANGKOK INVESTORS cashed in profits in late afternoon after the index failed to break through the key 1,550-point barrier. The SET index closed down 6.4 points at 1,512.66, off its afternoon low of 1,508.95. It had leapt 28.9 points in early morning trade to 1,547.96. Turnover was a robust 29.67 billion baht. ''Prices had risen very fast particularly among finance and securities shares, and investors thought they should take some profits now,'' said a broker at Nava Finance and Securities. ''They also sold partly because the index failed to break 1,550.'' Finance and brokerage shares were the most heavily traded with turnover of 15.59 billion baht, or 52.6 per cent of the market total. The four most active stocks were all listed in this sector. JAKARTA PRICES closed higher in active trading as local investors bought selected stocks heavily, driving many counters up. ''Local investors have piled into the market,'' one foreign broker said. One local dealer said upbeat sentiment on the market this week partly indicated that investors were locking in positions before fund managers make allocations next year. Agencies The Chinese share prices are provided by Telerate. All other prices are provided by Reuter.