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Asian Stock Markets End Week Higher - 2004-05-21

Despite a hefty regional selloff at the start of the week, many Asian stock markets managed to end this week slightly higher. Experts say political worries and high oil prices are not enough to keep investors out of the markets.

The week started badly, with many key Asian share indexes sinking three percent or more on Monday. Political uncertainty in several markets, including India, the Philippines and Taiwan, rattled investors. Elsewhere, record high oil prices and growing fears that interest rates will rise sharply this year led to heavy selling.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index ended Friday at 11,070 points, up about two percent from where it began the week. On Monday, the Nikkei had shed more than three percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index finished at 11,576 points, up 2.7 percent on the week and a hefty rebound from its close on Monday at 10,967 points. Seoul's Kospi index stood at 786 points on Friday, unchanged from a week ago, but eight percent above its close after Monday's selling spree.

Ifzal Ali is the chief economist with the Asian Development Bank. He said that recent market pressures, including high oil prices, are only temporary. ?These are small storms in a teacup, which should not be equated with a typhoon that hits an entire region,? he said. The ADB expects most of the region to see economic growth top six percent this year. Mr. Ali points out that regional exports are expanding, banking systems are fairly healthy and governments hold plenty of reserves, giving the region economic resiliency.

India's stock market was the most volatile this week. Nervous investors dumped shares on Monday because of confusion over who would become the country's new prime minister and what economic policies the new government would have. The main stock index in Bombay sank 11 percent Monday.

Dileep Madgavkar is the chief investment officer at Prudential ICICI Asset Management in Bombay.

?It was really because of a fair degree last week of a certain amount of uncertainty in the political situation,? he noted. ?And now that that has cleared up, the markets have rebounded.?

By midweek, economic reformer Manmohan Singh was named prime minister and the markets began to recover. The index was hovering around 4,925 points in trading late Friday, almost three percent lower than a week ago, but a significant improvement over Monday.

Mr. Madgavkar said that the market volatility is not likely to affect the country's overall economic health and the robust growth seen over the past few years should continue.