ASIAN stock markets closed mixed yesterday, with prices in Seoul soaring after Thursday's government announcement it would ease market-cooling measures implemented in February. The index closed 23.29 points or 2.65 per cent higher at 901.87, with 29.71 million shares changing hands. In Tokyo, the Nikkei added 24.6 points or 0.12 per cent to 20,115.31. On Thursday, the average rose 251.53 points or 1.27 per cent. Taipei prices closed lower for the second day after early gains were eroded by profit-taking. Share prices in Manila closed slightly higher on bargain-hunting. The Sydney market closed mixed, with gold and other resources shares rising while most other issues weakened. Singapore prices closed mostly lower in light trading. BANGKOK STOCKS ended lower after failing to breach resistance at 1,322. The SET index declined 12.98 points to 1,319.41 on thin turnover of 5.4 billion baht. Declines led advances by 179 to 101, with 78 issues unchanged. Banks were the most active sector. ''Investors, misunderstanding the provisions for doubtful debt enforced on banks, dumped bank shares continuously,'' said Pitsanu Promploy of Adkinson Securities. He said volume in banking shares had expanded from an average 15 per cent of the total market to 40 per cent on Thursday and 24.4 per cent yesterday. BOMBAY PRICES fell further towards the close as speculators squared up forward positions on the last day of trading before today's deadline set by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The Bombay Stock Exchange 30-share index closed at a provisional 3,737.01, down 70.71. The 100-share national index ended 60.89 points lower at a provisional 1,786.05. ''Most brokers do not seem to view the SEBI announcement about forward trading on Wednesday very favourably,'' said Atul Suri of brokers Parag Parikh. BSE was closed on Thursday for a Hindu festival. SEBI, which had banned forward trading in December to curb excessive speculation and had asked brokers to wipe out their outstanding forward business by March 12, on Wednesday set tough new conditions for its resumption. SEBI said it would allow resumption of the carry-forward system of trading only after stock exchanges implemented a transparent mechanism. KUALA LUMPUR SHARES closed firmer in lacklustre trading ahead of a holiday to mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange's 85-share weighted composite index was up 0.48 points to 1,046.48 from 1,046 points on Thursday. Turnover shrank to 150 million shares worth M$800 million from 160 million units worth $770 million a day earlier. Rises outpaced falls four to one. MANILA PRICES rose marginally at the close as buying interest perked up on expectations of further gains. ''It's starting to bottom out and build a sound foundation. But buyers remain very cautious,'' said Patrick Garcia, vice-president of L M Garcia and Associates. ''The market has stabilised. I think the market is beginning to regain confidence,'' said Jose Maria Salceda, research director of Baring Securities Inc. The Manila and Makati exchanges rose by about one point each after sell-offs earlier in the week. The Manila exchange closed at a higher revised level of 2,558.73 while Makati finished at 2,533.77. Both exchanges ended at 2,552 on Thursday. Combined turnover in the two exchanges rose slightly in volume and value to 1.62 billion shares worth 1.45 billion pesos from 1.52 billion shares valued at 1.2 billion pesos. SEOUL SHARE prices closed sharply higher after Thursday's government announcement it would ease market-cooling measures implemented in February. The composite index closed 23.29 points or 2.65 per cent higher on 901.87, with 29.71 million shares changing hands. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by 485 to 289 on turnover of about 655 billion won. ''The market reacted favourably to the ministry announcement,'' a broker at Hyundai Securities said. The ministry decided it would ease cooling measures implemented in February by lowering the required deposits on buy orders. Starting on Monday, institutional investors will only need to deposit 20 per cent of the value of buy orders at securities houses, down from the current 40 per cent. Deposit requirements on individuals will be cut to 40 per cent from 80 per cent. Credit restrictions for margin trading will also be eased from Monday. ''It is too early to tell whether the market will hold its upward trend,'' a Tong Yang Securities analyst said. ''We will have to wait and see how institutional investors play this market,'' he said. SINGAPORE PRICES pared most losses made during the day to end only marginally lower after buyers returned to pick up Malaysian shares traded over the counter ahead of a long weekend. ''The market has been oversold. I suspect most forced selling on Malaysian shares is completed. If we can recover further after the long weekend, the market should stabilise,'' a bank-owned brokerage's trader said. The 30-share Straits Times Industrials index fell four points to 2,190.1, bouncing off an intra-day low of 2,169.95. The Singapore market is closed on Monday. Brokers said they expected investors to stay low-keyed until the United States stocks and bond markets set a clearer trend. ''The market's main preoccupation is still with interest rates. Up to then, prices are likely to trend sideways,'' Low Siew Kheng, research director at Baring Securities said. Volume was 170.40 million with the broader market seeing 184 gainers and 126 falls. SYDNEY STOCKS ended slightly weaker as futures markets continued to fluctuate. The All Ordinaries index closed two points lower at 2,153.1. However, it gained 36.3 points over the week. Brokers said the share market had performed well on the day and over the week, given the bearish sentiment. ''I think interest rate and inflationary fears have been overdone. The rise in interest rates doesn't necessarily mean inflation is taking off in leaps and bounds,'' one broker said. The March share price futures index traded in a 38-point range before closing four points firmer at 2,146 on turnover of 8,046 lots. Brokers said the upcoming public holiday in Victoria on Monday restrained any significant moves on the upside. The All Industrials ended down 15.8 points at 3,291.8, while the All Resources was up 9.3 points at 1,287.1. TAIPEI STOCKS reversed slight early gains to close lower on a late wave of selling focused on the pulp and paper and textile sectors. The index ended 38.46 points down at 5,327.57, this year's lowest finish, and also set an intra-day low for the year of 5,317, compared with the previous bottom of 5,361. Turnover was a modest NT$48.88 billion against Thursday's $41.82 billion. Electronics attracted bargain-hunting from foreigners and locals for the third day in a row. ''But sentiment was weak as most analysts remain bearish,'' said George Hou at Jardine Fleming. Mr Hou said that with the market sliding, most investors were making short-term plays based on technical analysis. ''From a technical viewpoint, the index could fall to 5,200, and some bearish analysts even forecast 4,800.'' TOKYO STOCKS ended mixed, giving up most of their early gains on institutional profit-taking. Recently higher US long-term interest rates and the US Whitewater affair kept investors hesitant to buy and may continue to weigh on sentiment next week, brokers said. The 225-share Nikkei average was up 24.6 points or 0.12 per cent to 20.115.31. An estimated 750 million shares changed hands. Trading linked to yesterday morning's March futures and options settlements boosted turnover and lifted the Nikkei average earlier. The TOPIX index ended up 3.39 points or 0.21 per cent to 1,619.3. The Nikkei 300 gained 0.15 points to 298.42. Worries over US interest rates and their impact on overseas share and bond prices will continue to weigh on sentiment, said Toshiyuki Nishiguchi, broker at Daiwa Securities. ''If US interest rates rise, the currency market will become volatile,'' he said. ''Then participants will feel uneasy about buying Tokyo stocks.'' Bulls and bears were divided on which direction the market would take next week. Many think the Nikkei average may consolidate at the 20,000 level as a wave of institutional investor profit-taking should have peaked by now while overseas purchases are expected to continue. But some investors feel the downside may not be as firm as hoped if bears decide to unwind arbitrage long positions. The amount of cash stocks involved in arbitrage long positions is thought to be near a record high. Advancing issues led decliners by about three to two, with 609 higher, 422 lower and 158 unchanged. The key advancing sectors were the credit lease, pulp paper, textile and real estate sectors. The shipbuilding, fishery, ceramic, vehicle and retail sectors led decliners. WELLINGTON A LATE rally in the domestic bond market saved shares from a lower close after another relatively light day's trade. The NZSE-40 capital index ended 13.5 points down at 2,215.24 after earlier dipping as low as 2,199.28. Bonds had rallied from an oversold position, with three-year bond futures gaining eight basis points from Thursday's close. But the market continues to be plagued by volatility on most international financial markets, the latest source of nervousness centring on the Clinton Administration's Whitewater affair. THE Jakarta market was closed yesterday.