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Asian Stock Markets Soar - 2003-06-06

Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average index jumped 1.5 percent Friday to close at its highest level in more than four months. The index ended at 8,785, up four percent from last week.

Analysts say worries over a strengthening yen have eased off after the Japanese currency fell against the U.S. dollar in recent days. Shares in carmakers with huge exports to the United States rallied Friday.

Foreign investors dominated trading this week, in what the Tokyo Stock Exchange describes as the heaviest foreign buying in a year.

Hong Kong stocks reached an 18 month high this week, bolstered by the lifting of SARS-related advisories against the territory. The Hang Seng index rose half-a-percent Friday to 9,694. The index is up two percent from last week.

Taiwan's market ended flat Friday on profit taking following a nine-percent rally over the past two weeks.

Pedro Tai, a fund manager at ABN AMRO Asset Management in Taipei, said Taiwan has been playing catch-up with the rest of the region. "With SARS fading away, combined with the U.S. market rally I think this helps the sentiment. At the same time, we're seeing foreign investors buying in the market. Taiwan has been upgraded from underweight to neutral while Korea has been downgraded from overweight to neutral, so money flows around in Asia," he said.

Taiwan was hit hard by SARS but health authorities say new infections are declining.

Australia also ended flat Friday ahead of a long holiday. The ASX 200 index closed a quarter of a percent higher Friday to 3,048.

South Korea was closed for a holiday Friday. The KOSPI ended the week Thursday up two percent at 642.