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Japanese Stocks Register 2 Month High - 2002-03-01

Japanese stocks closed at a two-month high Friday while Hong Kong stocks fell on concerns over higher taxes.

Japan's Nikkei average Friday climbed more than 2 percent to close at an eight week high of 10,812, after electronics giant Sony said it would buy the 39 percent of Aiwa it does not already own. The news boosted Sony stock by 3 percent.

Japanese stocks also rose after the government said the jobless rate unexpectedly dropped in January from December, falling .2 of a percent to 5.3 percent. However, analysts agree that the economic outlook is dim and say that the drop simply reflects the declining number of job seekers.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi acknowledged the slight drop means little in a tough unemployment situation. He says that "the jobless figure is still rising and that there is no knowing what will happen next." Mr. Sakaguchi adds that "the government will continue to create measures to ease unemployment."

In Hong Kong, worries over higher property taxes pulled the market down. The Hang Seng index fell .5 percent to 10,430, with real estate companies leading the market lower. New World Development and Sino Land both hit three-year lows after a government advisory group suggested lifting property taxes to offset the growing budget deficit.

Singapore's market ended a fourth winning session with a small gain to close at 1,722. Investors were cheered by positive economic news from the United States, where the government revised annualized gross domestic product for the final three months of last year to 1.4 percent, seven times more than had been estimated.

Chartered Semiconductor, one of the country's largest chipmakers, rose strongly after saying its first-quarter loss will be smaller than first thought because of improving sales.