THE high-flying Seoul stock market fell back yesterday along with most other Asian markets. Seoul's drop of 1.66 per cent was larger than the falls in Tokyo, Singapore and Taipei. Sydney and Wellington both bucked the trend. Brokers said prices fell across the board as profit-taking gained momentum following steep rises for the past few days. Taipei dropped 1.28 per cent in heavy trading as the market's strength was eroded by selling of plastics and petrochemical issues. Singapore was 0.83 per cent lower in quiet profit-taking. Australian share prices staged a late recovery and closed stronger, with the market continuing to be led by activity in share price index futures. AUSTRALIA OFFSHORE buying and a surge in the oil and gas sector fuelled a rise in share prices. The All Ordinaries Index slipped to 1,993.8 points in morning trade before recovering to a close of 2,013.4, up 10 points, or 0.5 per cent. National turnover totalled 178.9 million shares worth A$383.9 million, with falls marginally outnumbering rises. Brokers said bullish news, including good production from tests on Woodside Petroleum's Laminaria One exploration well in the Timor Sea, set the scene for a comeback. BANGKOK THE SET Index slid 0.24 point, but a last minute rally helped it close above the 1,500-point mark at 1,501.42. Trading remained thin, with 78 million shares worth 6.5 billion baht changing hands. Declines outpaced advances by 168 to 100, and 119 issues unchanged. The index opened up and traded in a narrow range throughout the day. The energy and banking sectors were the most active. BOMBAY SHARE prices on the Bombay Stock Exchange ignored India's interest deregulation for the third consecutive day to go down on lack of buying support. Brokers reported a lack of interest among operators who were waiting for the domestic mutual funds to show the way. 'Most of the domestic institutions are busy with private placements which have to be done before November 3. This has led to a crisis of liquidity in the market,' said Apoorva Shah of DSP Financial Consultants. The 30-share BSE Index dipped 13.21 points to a provisional 4,322.69. The index has slipped 63.74 points since the Reserve Bank of India deregulated interest rates on Monday. JAKARTA SHARE prices rose in active trading. The stock exchange's Composite Index gained 8.35 points to close at 518.97. KUALA LUMPUR SHARE prices closed mixed after drifting within tight ranges and analysts expect the market to extend its consolidation phase in the near term. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange's benchmark Composite Index closed up 0.12 point at 1,118.86. Analysts said the market was suffering from lack of fresh incentives and foreign funds while fading hopes of an early general election had also dampened buying enthusiasm among retail investors. 'With foreigners not buying, I doubt the market will run in the short term,' said an analyst at T A Securities. Volume shrank to 225 million shares from 245 million on Tuesday. Losers led gainers by 227 to 184. MANILA AN accumulation of key blue chips and second-liners balanced profit-taking in other issues. The Composite Index rose 6.39 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 3,099.34. Volume declined 13.18 per cent to 3.03 billion shares, while value rose 1.69 per cent to 2.1 billion pesos. 'The persistent accumulation' of Petron Corp, Ayala Corp B, Union Bank and Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co (Metrobank) scrip 'enabled the index to conclude the day slightly up', in spite of selling pressure elsewhere, Citytrust Investment Bank said. SEOUL SHARE prices fell across the board, with the Composite Index plunging 2.4 per cent from the day's high to 1,094.76 as profit-taking gained momentum following steep rises for the past few days. The index closed down 18.53 points, or 1.66 per cent, from Tuesday's close, but even further off the day's high of 1,121.73 reached in early trading. 'Sell orders were across the board as investors wanted to realise profits before a technical downward correction starts,' said Park Sang-woon of Seoul Securities. Losers overwhelmed gainers by 655 to 228. 'Many investors are concerned that a technical correction is inevitable and the time is near,' said Jeon Jeong-tak of Hyundai Securities. Only a few construction shares and asset-play counters remained popular. SINGAPORE BLUE chips finished easier due to a dearth of institutional buying support. 'The market is lacking in volume. There has been a bit of profit-taking but it has been a slow, slow, day,' said Tom Hester, an institutional dealer at Baring Securities. Brokers said they expected shares to drift with not much direction for a while. The Straits Times Industrials Index fell 19.87 points to 2,364.11, led by losses in Keppel Corp and Sembawang Corp. Brokers said Malaysian stocks traded over the counter were also retreating after recent rallies. 'A lot of expectations had been built into an early general election and a good budget. People are beginning to see both may not come through,' a dealer said. He said, however, if the Malaysian budget tabled on October 28 offered any surprises, Malaysian stocks would rebound. Total trade was 151.01 million units. TAIPEI PRICES closed down 1.28 per cent on profit-taking and brokers expect prices to consolidate in the near term. The Weighted Index ended down 86.43 points, at 6,669.1, off a 6,817.46 high and a 6,630.88 low. Turnover was a heavy NT$89.49 billion. Plastics were hit hardest, with China Petrochemical down NT$1.80 to $39.50 and Lee Chang Yung down its daily seven per cent limit to $57.50. 'Institutional investors may have begun profit-taking on plastics and electronics, and start to transfer to buy steels, marines or paper,' said Harris Liao of Harvest Securities. 'As no bearish news emerged, this should be seen as a normal downward correction,' said Alex Chiu of Capital Securities. He said paper stocks had risen due to their low price-earnings ratios of less than 20, compared with overall market average of 30. Brokers saw several conglomerate shares attract buying, including President Enterprises and Walsin Lihwa. TOKYO AN extended 'dry spell' without strong buy incentives led stocks to close with moderate losses. The odd flurry of index-selling cancelled out selective foreign buying of low-priced cyclical and incentive-backed issues. But trade was half-hearted, with most investors inactive. 'Neither the currency nor JT (Japan Tobacco) are a big burden for the market. People are just waiting until after the listing. And then I think we're going to have higher levels by the year-end,' said Roland Hinterkoerner, a broker at Deutsche Bank Capital Markets. The Nikkei 225 ended 123.53 points, or 0.62 per cent, lower at 19,868.87. Turnover was some 230 million shares, down from Tuesday's 255.26 million. WELLINGTON THE market managed to find something to follow after the most sluggish of starts, closing mildly firmer. The NZSE-40 Capital Index closed at 2,061.66, up 9.25 points on below-average volume of NZ$26 million. The index's gain was attributed to a nine-cent rise in Telecom, to $5.38, on a volume of $5.7 million.