Stock markets in Singapore and Hong Kong saw lackluster trading this week, and a steady flow of bad news did not improve investor sentiment. But better than expected U.S. economic data helped technology stocks in Japan and Taiwan Friday.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index struggled this week as the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, continued to dominate the headlines. The index ended the week three quarters of a percent lower, with property companies, a large proportion of the Hang Seng, stacking up losses.
Traditionally, the Easter holiday is a big sales period for property developers, but the outbreak has weakened demand for new apartments and forced developers to offer discounts to lure buyers.
Marco Mak, research head of Tai Fook Securities in Hong Kong, said "homebuyers still lack confidence to come to the market given that the spread of SARS would have negative impact on the local economy, which is already quite weak."
The Hang Seng index closed for the Easter holiday on Thursday at 8,579. Singapore's Strait Times index also felt the effects of SARS, ending the week 1.5 percent lower at 1,282. The decline came in spite of the government's pledge to aid industries severely affected by the outbreak.
A technology rally helped pushed stocks up in Japan and Taiwan Friday. Japanese stocks rose more than half a percent, after trading at 20 year lows earlier in the week. The Nikkei 225 index closed Friday at 7,874.
Good economic news from the United States helped Taiwan stocks gain 2 percent on Friday, and its index closed at a two-month high of 4,658. Positive earnings from Finnish phone maker Nokia were felt in Taiwan, boosting share prices for component makers.
Financial markets in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia are closed Friday.