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Asian Markets Negatively Affected by SARS

Asian stock markets saw mixed trading Friday, with little good news to boost investor confidence.

Taiwan's main stock index fell more than one percent Friday, as investors stayed away because of concerns that a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak on the island may get worse.

Taiwan has been reporting rising number of SARS cases over the past week, with more than 270 people suffering from the illness.

Pedro Tai is a fund manager at ABN AMRO Asset Management in Taipei. "It's [SARS] still the major factor affecting the market," he said. "People don't want to get too involved [in the market]. I would say the impact on the market is more on sentiment rather than valuation."

The weighted index closed at 4,283. It was still up nearly one percent from last Friday.

Japanese stocks ended Friday little changed from Thursday, at 8,117, roughly 0.5 percent lower than last week's close. Investors ignored news that Japan's economy stalled for the first three months of the year. Investors, however, are concerned with the rising yen, which reached 116.36 to the U.S. dollar in Tokyo Friday, near its highest level in almost two years.

Shares in South Korea dropped 1.3 percent Friday because of an uncertain economic outlook in the second half of the year. The KOSPI stood at 610, roughly 1.5 percent lower from last week.

Australia slid a quarter of a percent on profit-taking in companies such as media giant News Corp, which posted higher than expected quarterly profit earlier this week. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed at 2,951.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 33 points Friday to 9,093.