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Asian Stocks Close Week Higher


The end of the trading week brought some relief to Asian investors. Almost every equity market in the region closed the week higher, and the U.S. dollar also gained ground against the Japanese yen.

Stock markets from Tokyo to Singapore finished the week higher Friday, encouraged by a rebound in U.S. stocks and a stronger American currency.

In Japan, the Nikkei closed 0.8 percent higher as the Bank of Japan bought dollars to keep the yen from climbing. It was the Nikkei's first week of gains after seven weeks of losses.

Investors are relieved that the yen is losing ground, because a strong yen makes Japanese exports more expensive in overseas markets. The dollar was trading at about 119-yen in late Tokyo trade compared to 117 for most of the week.

Marco Pianelli is an Asian currency analyst for HSBC Securities in Tokyo. "It looks as though the intervention from the BOJ [Bank of Japan] will not be as intense as it has been so far in the past week. Nonetheless data out of Japan today and the corporate downgrades suggest that the BOJ will be keen to support the yen at about 118 or 119, even up to 125 [to the dollar]," he said.

While the Bank of Japan's repeated intervention over the past two weeks appears to be successful, Japan's poor economic outlook was underscored by ominous new data. Unemployment remained at a record high of five percent in August and industrial output rose 0.8 percent compared to the previous month, which was worse than expected.

In Singapore, the stock market soared more than eight percent, the second winning session in a row. Real estate shares led the rally and Singapore Telecom rose three percent.

Hong Kong's market also ended with a sharp gain. It scored its biggest weekly rally in more than a year as fund managers tried to drive up share prices to improve their third-quarter performance. The Hang Seng index tacked on 3.6 percent to finish at 9,050. Banking giant HSBC led the rally with a gain of more than six percent.

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