Limited Dow fall fuels Tokyo surge

ASIAN stock markets closed mixed yesterday, with share prices surging in Tokyo because the overnight tumble on Wall Street was not as bad as traders had feared.

Tokyo's 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average gained 440.99 points or 2.3 per cent, closing at 19,563.21. On Monday, it had fallen 154.94 points or 0.81 per cent.

Sydney prices closed slightly lower. A sharp early sell-off because of the fall in New York was followed by an almost equally strong rebound.

Prices in Wellington ended lower in quiet trading because of the continued weakness in the US market.

Singapore prices were higher in thin trading after investors expressed relief that the fall on Wall Street was not as steep as feared.

BANGKOK STOCKS closed higher on bargain-hunting after big fluctuations in morning trade ahead of a public holiday today.

The SET index closed up 5.36 points at 1,201.95 after dipping 11 points in the opening minutes.

Turnover was the lowest of the year at 2.3 billion baht.

''The market was really quiet ahead of the public holiday,'' said Ubonwan Hongwittayakorn of General Finance.

Banks were in focus in the afternoon session, causing the index to stay in positive territory at the close.

Bangkok Bank, which shed three baht during trade, finished unchanged at 155.

Ms Ubonwan said investors shifted to buy small stocks in the food and textile sectors.

She said the thin volume showed investors were reluctant to enter the market at the moment, despite the index gain.

Rises led falls by 141 to 90 with 88 issues unchanged. Only three sectors declined: insurance, agribusiness and construction materials.

Nithipat, which was listed for the first time on Friday, leapt five baht to 130, Shinawatra gained six to 476 and Land and House was two up at 528.

BOMBAY THE Bombay index rose 31.14 points or 0.82 per cent to 3,812.15 and the national index was up 9.23 points or 0.5 per cent to 1,848.79.

Turnover remained low because of a continuing row between brokers and the market regulator over a new system of rolling over trades, dealers said.

The controversy has continued for three weeks, with brokers protesting against the new system of rolling over trades for only 90 days imposed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

''Volumes are still very low and it might be two or three months before they get back to healthy levels,'' one trader said.

Turnover dropped after March 15, when SEBI abolished a system under which trades could be rolled over indefinitely without shares ever being delivered as long as a fee was paid.

When the system ended, private financiers who had funded purchases by investors withdrew from the market because of fears they might not be able to sell stocks pledged with them if a borrower defaulted.

JAKARTA SHARE prices closed lower in dull trade with weak sentiment and the holiday in Hong Kong affecting the market.

''It has been one of the most boring trading days for some time. We still have all those sell orders piling up,'' one foreign broker said.

A dealer said stock prices were close to bottoming out and that selective buying could cause the index to rebound today when Hong Kong reopens.

''So much here depends on Hong Kong. When it shuts down we could almost do the same,'' he said.

The official index ended 4.95 points lower at 480.96.

KUALA LUMPUR PRICES ended a volatile session higher as investors moved in to pick up bargains after a sharp fall, but brokers say the rise may not be sustained as sentiment was still uncertain.

''The rebound was technical after the sharp fall,'' said a CIMB Securities' trader. ''I'm not sure whether the rise is sustainable.'' The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange composite index closed up 10.98 points at 939.31 after earlier touching a low of 920.28.

The index fell 31.61 points on Monday.

A fresh round of forced selling activity weighed on morning prices.

Brokers said the market's upside in the short term would be limited as players were likely to sell on any rally to cut their losses.

Sentiment would continue to be influenced by the performance on Wall Street and other major markets, they said.

Turnover was 128 million shares against 115 million on Monday. Rises led falls 195 to 161.

MANILA WALL Street jitters haunted the market for the second straight day, causing share prices to slide at the close.

''The market is lower because everyone is staying at the sidelines, awaiting for direction from New York,'' said Louie Bate of Baring Securities.

The composite index drifted down about 20 points with only oil issues rising slightly on speculation over an oil flow in offshore Palawan.

''In the coming days, the market is likely to be defensive,'' said Noel Reyes, vice-president at DMT Securities.

The market is expected to fall back to support levels of between 2,550 to 2,600 points, brokers said.

The index finished at 2,633.01 points compared with Monday's 2,653.7.

Turnover climbed to 1.66 billion shares against the previous 1.02 billion while value skidded to 428.67 million pesos from 577.17 million.

SINGAPORE SHARES ended slightly firmer after Wall Street's better-than-expected performance on Monday, but trading was thin and confined to a few index-linked blue chips.

The 30-share Straits Times Industrials index stood at 2,061.49, up 22.37 points or 1.1 per cent. Volume was thin at 112.86 million shares. Advancers led declines by 263 to 55.

Brokers said overall sentiment remained cautious and this could keep prices restricted to a tight range.

On the market's near-term direction, Phillip Securities Research's executive director, Jeffrey Lee said: ''People will be watching the Dow.'' He said investors were relieved the New York market did not drop on Monday as sharply as they had earlier been expected.

Brokers said investors had expected the Dow to plunge by 70 to 100 points on Monday but it fell only 42.61.

SYDNEY THE market staged a comeback in afternoon trade as bargain-hunters emerged and lifted it off a four-month low.

''It's been a day when the sellers have been in charge, but the buyers have in fact come back this afternoon to do a bit of bargain-hunting,'' Morgan Stockbroking's Bob Crawford said.

The market had shed 43.3 points or two per cent but clawed its way up to end at 2,050, down just 3.1 points.

The day's trough of 2,009.8 was the market's lowest level since it hit 1,995 in late November.

''There's been plenty of nervousness around and we've been following the bond market religiously,'' Mr Crawford said.

The All Industrials index also recovered strongly, ending up 1.2 points to 3,115.5, but the All Resources closed down 6.7 points at 1,241.1.

The market was led up by a stronger futures market which bounced off its low of 1,972.

The June share price index closed at 2,049, up 30 points from Thursday's finish on a turnover of 10,017.

TOKYO PRICES rebounded sharply, with the Nikkei closing 440.99 points or 2.3 per cent higher at 19,563.21.

The Nikkei indicator of 225 selected issues in the first section lost 154.94 points at the close.

The broader-based TOPIX of all issues in the major section, which closed 10.8 points lower on Monday, gained 28.45 to end at 1,588.83.

First section turnover decreased from the previous day's 230 million shares to an estimated 220 million.

Investors were relieved at smaller-than-expected tumbles on Wall Street overnight, market sources said.

Market participants were encouraged by an advance in futures on Monday on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the sources said.

The Tokyo market was recovering confidence on prospects that Wall Street might calm down in a few days, brokers said.

WELLINGTON THE market took a beating to close at its lowest level for the year as it caught up with falls in world markets.

The NZSE-40 capital index closed at 2,049.17, down 35.41 points after recovering from a low of 2,030.56.

Only Carter Holt, up one cent to NZ$3.45, was unscathed among the leaders.

The drop was attributed to falls in overseas markets, which are themselves at the mercy of continued weakness in US Treasuries.

''We're getting the same sort of pattern day after day,'' said Peter Halligan of Buttle Wilson. ''Our market is taking its lead from offshore, which is in turn taking its lead from US interest rates.'' Mr Halligan said the fall in the New Zealand market was only in line and no worse than overseas markets.

Window-dressing on the shortened trading session on Thursday exaggerated the extent of the fall, Mr Halligan said.

THE Seoul and Taipei markets were closed yesterday.