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Upbeat US Economic Prospects Help Boost Asian Stocks - 2003-05-23

Despite continuing fears about the serious outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in Taiwan, the island's stock market rallied Friday, rising nearly 2 percent, its biggest gain in a month. The weighted index closed at 4,349.

Investors took their cue from a Wall Street rally Thursday and bought shares in electronics companies with main export markets in the United States. Analysts expect this is a sign of optimism that the U.S. economy will grow faster in the second half of the year.

The upbeat U.S. economic news also lifted Hong Kong's Hang Seng index Friday to 9,303. The Hang Seng is up more than 2 percent for the week.

Alex Tang, research director of Core Pacific Yamaichi Securities, said "investors started to buy aggressively blue chips and some of export oriented companies. Several of them have been lagging behind the market and now we see strong buying interest."

Stocks in Japan also followed the trend, rising 1.5 percent. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average closed Friday at 8,184, up nearly 1 percent for the week.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index rose more than 1 percent Friday led by shares in banks and media giant News Corp. The index closed at 2,997.

Korea's KOSPI rose marginally higher, settling at 611.