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Asia Stocks End the Week Mixed - 2003-07-25

Stocks in Asia ended mixed this week as companies started announcing second quarter results. Aviation analysts say investors are expecting big losses from many of Asia's airlines.

On Friday, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down almost two percent for the week, falling about 100 points below its psychologically important 10,000-point level.

Investors say the Hang Seng followed Wall Street's dip after second quarter results from the technology sector failed to inspire investors.

Investors in Asia are also waiting to see how much damage the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome had on corporate earnings in Hong Kong.

Philip Wickham, an airline analyst with ING Bank, said airlines in Asia, especially Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific, will take a big hit. "People are expecting extremely poor results from all these carriers," he said. "I do not believe the main affected carriers based in Singapore, Hong Kong, or let's say Taiwan, are going to be able to escape posting a loss for the quarter. [For] Singapore Airlines, we are probably talking in the neighborhood of around $150 million [U.S.], Cathay probably a similar amount."

Mr. Wickham added that he sees promise of a rebound in airlines since Hong Kong's SARS crisis ended in June and the World Health Organization declared Asia free of new outbreaks in July.

The six-month SARS outbreak prompted the United States and other countries to issue health-related travel advisories for Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and parts of China. The warnings had a devastating affect on hotel occupancy rates, while airlines were forced to cancel a large percentage of flights to cut operating costs.

Despite losses in U.S. technology shares overnight, Taiwan's tech-heavy index managed to gain two percent on the week, ending at 5,395.

Investors say the easing of foreign investment restrictions also helped cushion Taiwan's market.

Japan's Nikkei-225 also ended the week in positive territory. The main share index closed 1.2 percent higher to end at 9,648 on Friday.

The Philippine Stock Exchange composite index closed slightly lower on Friday at 1,283, one point lower than last week.