Trading across Asian stock markets Friday was thin, with little positive news to boost investor confidence. But political developments in Indonesia offered investors there some inspiration.
Indonesia's financial markets rallied this week at news of President Megawati Sukarnoputri's new Cabinet line-up. Observers say the cabinet appears professional, and relatively free from party loyalties, in contrast to previous administrations.
Suresh Kumar, an emerging market analyst at Standard and Poor's IMS in Singapore, says that cheered local and foreign investors. "There's a new sense of hope in the country that, perhaps, there's some sort of light at the end of the dark corridor of uncertainty that we've seen in the last few months," Mr. Kumar said. "And that is a very, very important change in what's happening in Indonesian markets at the present moment."
Mr. Kumar says that sentiment is also underscored in the Indonesian currency market. "The rupiah, for example - that's the best example of how much the market likes what's going on - has rallied from 11,925 to about 9,000 to the dollar. That's about an 18 percent gain since Megawati has come to power," Mr. Kumar said.
In Tokyo, poor performances this week from local and overseas high tech sectors saw the Nikkei share index end lower for the third straight day. On Friday, the stronger yen also dragged down share prices of exporters such as Sony.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng broke a six-day losing streak on Friday. But the index still remains the worst performing stock market in Asia this year.
Taiwan's stock market managed to regain ground lost earlier in the week, when it closed up more than 0.5 percent Friday. But analysts warn that investor confidence there remains weak, noting that much of the buying was government-funded.
Share prices in South Korea fared somewhat better, with the KOSPI closing up one percent. Sharply lowered interest rates, which could help direct more funds into the markets, helped boost tech shares and blue chip stocks.