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Asian Markets End Week Mixed

Major markets in Asia ended mixed at the week's end, with a correction in Hong Kong and a fresh 21-month high for Japan's Nikkei index.

Hong Kong's main share index closed Friday at 13,454, a decline of three percent compared to last week's end.

One analyst says that after reporting annual earnings, selling in two big financial stocks - HSBC bank and Hang Seng bank - led the market's decline.

Howard Gorges, vice chairman of South China Brokerage in Hong Kong, says that while the earnings' results were in line with expectations, investors wanted to take a more conservative position considering the banks' growth potential in 2004.

Mr. Gorges says, however, he is surprised that the "H-shares" of mainland Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong remain strong after leaders in Beijing expressed worry that China's economy is overheating.

"I'm a bit surprised because I found that those very stocks in the hot sectors are holding up very well," he said. "Some of them are going to new highs. It seems that the earnings potential… it's still going to be pretty good growth looking further ahead."

Japan's Nikkei hit 11,537 on Friday, a 21-month high and about four and a half percent above last week's finish. Traders say shares of exporters led the gains while real estate shares, which had been strong in recent weeks, declined Friday.

South Korea's main share index, the Kospi, gained two and a half percent this week, closing Friday at 905. The index came under pressure Friday, however, as some investors sought to lock in earlier gains. Traders say foreign investors returning to South Korean shares helped boost the market.

Elsewhere, Taiwan's Taiex saw a gain of more than two percent. It closed at 6,943 on Friday.