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Investor Uncertainty Slows Down Asian Trading - 2003-01-31

Sluggish U.S economic performance weighed down Asian stock market trading Friday. Most Asian markets are closed for the long Lunar New Year holidays.

Trading was subdued in Asian markets this week with investors still waiting for uncertainty to ease. Analysts say investors remain concerned over the slow economic recovery in the United States and the unfolding Iraqi crisis.

Arup Raha is a regional economist for the Swiss investment bank, UBS Warburg.

"Right now there is a fair amount of uncertainty in global markets, which has resulted in a flight to safe havens," he said. " Which is why you are seeing a tremendous amount of money going into government bonds. You have also seen a fair amount of money going to gold. "

Japan's Nikkei 225 index declined 4.5 percent for the week, closing at 8,339. Weak economic data from the United States dampened trading in stocks dependent on the U.S. market, such as Sony. The entertainment giant's stock dropped more than one percent Friday.

Shares in Australia ended the week two percent lower at 2,956 - its biggest weekly decline in six months. On Friday, the government announced that the country's trade deficit almost tripled in December because of expensive airplane imports by flagship carrier, Qantas.

Singapore's Strait Times Index closed Friday at 1,291, a near-five percent drop from last Friday. Bank stocks were among the biggest losers after the city-state's monetary authority said lending activity slowed in December.

Market leader DBS lost nearly three percent while Singapore's number two bank, UOB, lost one percent. Singapore's market had a half-day session Friday ahead of Lunar New Year holidays.

Stock markets in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and South Korea are closed.