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Most Asian Markets Higher Despite Short Work Week


It was an abbreviated week for many Asian stock markets, and all around the region trading volume was thin, with many traders already on their year end holidays. Many markets ended the week higher.

Some Asian markets finished trading for the year on Friday, and took time to assess a rough 12 months. The Tokyo Stock Exchange closed out the trading year with its ritual hand clapping ceremony.

The clapping seemed to lack some of the vigor of past Decembers. That could be because the market showed little vigor this year. The benchmark Nikkei fell 24 percent in 2001 to its lowest year-end close since 1983.

But there are hopes for a better year ahead, as Shinko Investment senior strategist Yuji Nakamura told TV Tokyo.

Mr. Nakamura thinks the first quarter of next year will be a turning point for the Nikkei. He says he sees a V-shaped market recovery, with a strong rally after deep troubles. He blames some of the market's problems on the fall in the prices of high-technology stocks and the collapse of big corporations. Mr. Nakamura also says he expects the government to help out Japan's troubled banks.

In Taiwan, the central bank cut interest rates Thursday. The Weighted Price Index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange closed up 1.25 percent Friday, giving it a gain of almost 14 percent for the year.

Hong Kong had a short week, with the market closed Tuesday and Wednesday. The Hang Seng Index managed to gain 188-points for the week. Hong Kong's key index has fallen about 25 percent since the start of the year.

Shares in Korean export companies gained after the won dropped against the dollar. On Friday, the final day of trading for the year, Seoul's Kospi index rose nearly 4 percent.

Singapore's Straits Time Index rose all week, finishing up three percent from last Friday. The index is now up 32 percent from its low point of the year in late September.

But some analysts expressed concern about the big rally in Singapore's tech stocks. They warn that the share prices may have risen too fast, when it is not clear when there will be an economic recovery.

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