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Soaring Oil Prices Spook Asian Investors - 2004-06-04


Soaring oil prices helped spook investors in Asian equities this week.

Oil prices of more than $42 a barrel early in the week, sent Asian shares lower on Monday and Tuesday.

When companies face higher fuel prices investors anticipate that corporate margins, and therefore profits, could suffer as costs of transportation and production rise.

Nilesh Jasani, an analyst with the investment arm of HSBC bank in Hong Kong, said that manufacturing equities and shares with exposure to China are prone to the greatest losses when oil prices rise. However, he added that in the longer term it is the economies of major oil importing counties, which suffer the most.

"In terms of the economic impact, [South] Korea, Thailand and India are among the worst losers when oil prices rise rapidly." he said. "In terms of the stock market, Chinese shares in Hong Kong, Taiwan and [South] Korea always tend to offer more response to these sorts of developments."

South Korea's Kospi index ended the week at 780, down almost 4.5 percent from last Friday's close.

Japan's main share index also suffered losses over the week. The Nikkei-225 closed 1.5 percent lower on Friday at 11,128.

Mr. Jasani said that that both the Kospi and Nikkei indexes were trading higher on Friday after oil prices sunk slightly lower following OPEC's announcement to raise crude oil output.

In Hong Kong, buying at the week's end helped erase earlier losses caused by higher oil prices. The Hang Seng ended Friday at 12,022, less than a point off last week's finish.

Taiwan's Taiex index gained more than 50 points in trading Friday and closed at 5,724, after a loss of more than 200 points on Thursday.

Traders in Taiwan said investors sold after an article posted on an official mainland Chinese website hinted that China could impose economic sanctions on the island. Such sanctions may be used as a means of countering Taiwan's pro-independence politicians.

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