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Asian Markets Post Gains - 2003-05-09

Major Asian stock markets rose Friday, and Japan posted its biggest weekly gain this year. Japan's stock market rose more than three percent this week, after recently falling to new 20-year lows. The battered market took hope from a government proposal to use public money to begin buying shares.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average rose 1.5 percent on Friday alone, to close the week at 8,152.

In Hong Kong, the continuing decline in Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome infections has boosted investor sentiment. The government announced only six new SARS cases on Friday, the lowest daily increase in over a month.

On Friday, blue chips pushed the Hang Seng index up two percent, to 9,084. Investors snapped up shares of banking giant HSBC after it reported a 30 percent jump in profit from its China operations.

Alex Tang, research director of Core Pacific Yamaichi Securities in Hong Kong, said investors are generally staying away from shares of China-based companies and buying Hong Kong stocks instead.

"Investors are switching away from the H-shares or the so-called state enterprises because of the SARS outbreak in the mainland," said Alex Tang. "Investors have been buying blue chips over the past few weeks and they [blue chips] will continue to see strong buying interest in the week ahead."

In Taiwan, investors bought electronics companies at bargain prices, leading the index up 1.3 percent on Friday. The weighted index stood at 4,244, up 1.35 percent for the week.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index closed the week flat at 2,956. Gains by the country's leading airline, Qantas, and by insurer AMP were offset by losses in bank shares.

Korea's KOSPI rose slightly to close at 619. Construction-related shares climbed after the government said new cities would be built outside Seoul.