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Asian Stocks End the Week Light, Upbeat - 2002-01-04

Trading was light in Asian stock markets this week, but upbeat.

Investment bank JP Morgan's advice to buy shares in chipmaker Intel and a bullish survey on the micro-chip industry by stockbroker Merrill Lynch boosted Asian stocks, especially electronics-related issues in Japan and Taiwan.

Japan's Nikkei was only open for trading for a half-day on Friday, its first session of the new year. But that was enough to boost the benchmark Nikkei index more than 3 percent.

The chief executive officer of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Masaaki Tsuchida, told floor traders on the first day of business that he hopes the new year will bring reform, and give Tokyo a greater global role. "In this New Year, as we push ahead with market reform, I vow to solidify the Tokyo Stock Exchange's position as the central market in Japan, and aim to create a truly global market," Mr. Tsuchida said.

The bullish reports about the chip industry sent Taiwan's main index to a nine-month high. The news also lifted shares in Korea and Singapore.

In Seoul, the market also got a boost from investors' hopes that there will be bank mergers in 2002. Kookmin Bank, Korea's biggest commercial lender by assets, rose nearly 5 percent on Friday. The Kospi index in Seoul is now at a 16-month high, and finished the week up nearly 8 percent.

The Straits Time Index in Singapore, supported by tech stocks, is at its highest point since early August of 2001.

Telecommunications, banking and property stocks paced the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong, which was up 2.3 percent for the week.