Asia's major stock markets ended the week mixed, as investors stayed on the sidelines amid fears of an coming military strike against Iraq. Shares of some of the region's airlines suffered losses this week, amid fears of rising oil prices if war breaks in the Middle East.
Korean Airlines declined 4.6 percent Friday, while Taiwan's China Airlines shed 3.68 percent.
Analysts note that high oil prices increase the airlines' operating expenses.
Investors seeking safe havens kept gold prices near a six-year high in Asian trading. Gold closed at $343.50 an ounce in Hong Kong. Some Australian gold mining company stocks were higher, following the strong price performance.
Rio Tinto advanced 1 percent Friday, while BHP Billiton increased 1.6 percent.
Nick Bibby, an economist at UBS Warburg in Hong Kong, explains the current trend. "Part of this has been talk that people are buying ahead of potential problems with Iraq," he said. "The other thing is if you look at other investment opportunities, the outlook is really cloudy for them."
Overall, major stock markets in Asia ended mixed for the week.
The Taiwanese market recovered from a bearish week, closing at 4,595, slightly higher than last Friday's close. The benchmark TAIEX hit a new six-week low early in the week, after Standard and Poor's downgraded the credit rating of the Taiwan government. The international ratings agency expressed concern over Taiwan's ability to resolve its growing bad debt problem and fiscal deficit.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index managed to close higher after some selling early in the day. The index rose 1 percent from last Friday to close at 9,828.69.
Despite the euphoria after the victory of the ruling party candidate in Thursday's presidential polls, Korea's KOSPI dropped slightly. The index was roughly unchanged from its level of a week ago, closing the week at 708.13.
Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average closed down Friday at 8,406.88, falling 1.28 percent from a week ago.