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Asia's Major Markets End Week Mixed - 2004-06-25

Major markets in Asia closed mixed for the week, rocked by fears over expected interest rate increases in the United States, mixed signals about Japan's economic recovery and a possible major change in Australia's main stock index.

Share prices in Tokyo dropped early Friday, as consumer price data indicated continued deflationary pressure on the economy.

But by the afternoon, the Nikkei had reversed course, propelled by an earlier survey suggesting Japanese companies may soon be looking to hire more workers. The index closed at 11,780, a rise for the week of 2.2 percent, with analysts saying Japan's economy is on track for its longest recovery since 1997.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose Thursday and Friday, but still closed down for the week at 12,185, due to earlier fears about interest rate increases in the United States. The late week rise was attributed to Wall Street's gains, plus excitement about the listing of Ping An, a mainland insurance company recently added to the Hong Kong exchange.

Kingston Lee, head of Hong Kong and China Research for ING financial markets, says China's efforts to cool its economy have not decreased investor speculation in mainland stocks.

"There's a lot of speculative interest in Chinese stocks. Volatility is 40 percent both ways," he said.

In Seoul, stocks rallied Thursday and Friday. The Kospi index finished at 779, up almost four percent for the week, helped largely by bargain hunting buyers, who took advantage of recent price declines.

In Sydney, Australian share prices dropped nearly half a percent late in the week, when media empire News Corp. said it might withdraw from the Sydney exchange. The comment came after the company was told by index compiler Standard and Poor's it would not be eligible for U.S. benchmark indexes like the S&P 500, if it was also included in any Australian index.

Owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. currently accounts for seven percent of Sydney's SP/ASX 200, the benchmark index used to gauge the overall strength of the Australian market.

But the company operates newspapers, radio and television stations around the world, and makes most of its money in the United States. Mr. Murdoch wants to move the company's main listing to New York, to take advantage of U.S. capital markets.

In the Philippines, share prices closed higher Friday, after incumbent President Gloria Arroyo was proclaimed winner of last month's contentious presidential election.

Analysts cautioned, however, that possible challenges to Mrs. Arroyo's victory might limit stock market gains in the future.