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Asian Stocks Mixed, Investors Worried Over Possible War With Iraq - 2003-01-17

Stock market trading in Asia has been mixed, as investors remained worried of a possible war in Iraq and an expected slow recovery in the technology sector. Weak technology news overnight from U.S. technology giants, IBM and Microsoft, dampened trading in stock markets in Asia's major electronics exporting countries.

Analysts say Microsoft's slow industry outlook and IBM's dismal quarterly profit indicate that a recovery from the IT slump may take a while.

Blue chip Samsung Electronics dropped nearly 3 percent despite announcing record profits. The world's number one memory chipmaker, quadrupled its fourth quarter earnings to $1.3 billion from the same period last year.

Chu Woo Sik, head of Samsung investor relations, says the company will increase capital spending in its semiconductor business this year to improve its competitiveness. "The outlook for 2003 is still very uncertain, although we are looking for a general market recovery from the second half of the year," he said.

South Korea's KOSPI closed at 636, down 1.89 percent Friday. However, it was still up more than 1 percent from its close last week.

Taiwan's TAIEX lost close to a percent Friday to close at 4,907. Electronics exporter Delta Electronics fell more than 2 percent while Hon Hai Precision shed more than 3. But the index managed to end the week one percent higher overall.

Japan's Nikkei 225 average finished the week 2.5 percent higher to close at 8,690. Shares in some of Japan's biggest banks were active with UFJ Holdings up 7.8 percent and Mizuho Holdings rising nearly 3 percent.

Hong Kong closed 1 percent lower from last Friday at 9,614. Analysts say investors are looking for safe havens for their investments as a possible war in Iraq looms.

In Australia, takeover fever involving the country's food and beverage giants failed to lift shares in the benchmark S&P/A-S-X 200. American beverage group, Constellation Brands, made a $1 billion takeover bid for local winemaker BRL Hardy that could create the world's largest wine company. Trading of BRL shares was suspended Friday in anticipation of the deal but the stock has risen nearly 18 percent in the last two trading days.

Meanwhile, food manufacturer Goodman Fielder rejected a $1 billion bid from smaller competitor Burns Philp. Goodman shares closed one percent higher Friday.