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Chips give Asian stocks hot 2002 start

korean trading
South Korean trading gets off to a flying start in 2002, backed with a balloon banner reading "stock market activity"  

By staff and wire reports

HONG KONG, China -- South Korean stocks stole the spotlight on the first day of trading in 2002.

The Kospi romped ahead 3.13 percent to close at 724.95, with chip stocks the main movers.

Japan's stock markets are closed until Friday, when they open for a half-day, so Tokyo trade was focused on the yen.

The Japanese currency again hit 132 against the U.S. dollar, a stone throw that splashed across Asia Pacific currencies.

Stock exchanges in China and New Zealand were also closed. But all other main Asian markets were back in action after their New Year celebrations.

Hynix steps in with price hike, tieup talks

Korea was the focus. Hynix Semiconductor sparked a run in chip makers there and in Taiwan, with executives saying they expect to settle a deal with Micron Technology by the end of this month.

Hynix finished up 15 percent, the daily limit for a one-day move in Korea, at 2,780 won. The company also gave investors a reason to buy by saying it would raise contract-chip prices.

Its larger rival, Samsung Electronics, climbed 10.4 percent to 308,000 won.

Analysts feel there is too much chip-making capacity and have said consolidation is inevitable.

The optimism that is under way spilled over to Taiwan. The Taiex lifted 0.88 percent to end at 5,600.05.

Taiwanese makers of dynamic random access memory chips are expected to follow Hynix in a price change, raising tabs 5 to 10 percent.

Electronics up in WTO member Taiwan

This was also the first day of trade after Taiwan formally joined the World Trade Organization on January 1.

Taiwan's electronics index was up 0.68 percent for the day. Its banking stocks, which have run up under furious merger speculation due to WTO membership, dropped 0.13 percent on Wednesday.

Markets in both South Korea and Taiwan posted some of the best gains in Asia last year, with the Kospi rising 37 percent and the Taiex 17 percent.

Australian trading got off to a hot start, literally and figuratively, with bushfires surrounding Sydney.

Pall of smoke can't hide months high Dow Under

nyum shot
Finance Minister Jin Nyum (center) kicked off trading in Seoul, where he has tried to speed up Korean corporate reform  

Despite a pall of smoke over the city, the S&P/ASX 200 index recovered from an initial drop to end Wednesday up 0.63 percent at 3,443.8.

Sydney stocks are now at their highest level since last July.

Mining company BHP Billiton rose 2.1 percent to A$10.72. It was a good day for resources stocks in general, merger target Normandy Mining lifting 1.65 percent to A$1.84.

Management said Monday it will soon give new advice to shareholders on rival bids from Newmont Mining and AngloGold.

Financial services company AMP jumped 2.4 percent to A$18.88.

Australian and New Zealand stocks also locked in full-year gains for 2001, up 6.5 percent and 7.9 percent respectively.

But Kiwi stocks were down 0.37 percent on Monday. They reopen for trade on Thursday.

New year, same direction for Hong Kong

Hong Kong's market was off to a rough start to 2002. The Hang Seng index was the worst performing index in Asia last year, down 24 percent.

It is still headed in the same direction, off 0.41 percent on Wednesday to close at 11,350.85.

The main culprit was the largest listing, Anglo-Chinese bank company HSBC. The global bank fell 0.55 percent to HK$90.75.

Though it has little direct exposure to Argentina, investors have been betting it will still take a hit from the economic chaos in that country.

Hong Kong's main airline, Cathay Pacific, fell 1.0 percent to HK$9.90. Its pilots resumed a "work to rule" go-slow on Wednesday, a move they suspended last October.

The pilots say the company has been negotiating in bad faith in their long-running labor dispute.

Pacific Century CyberWorks stock rose 1.16 percent to HK$2.175, after Richard Li's outfit reworked deals worth almost $100 million on NOW, a struggling TV and Internet network.

In the mainland, China's markets resume trading on Friday.

Singapore's Straits Times index closed up 0.14 percent at 1,625.69.

Technology stocks made good ground, led by DRAM chip stocks, as in Korea and Taiwan. China plays also ended strong.

Indian stocks were also off to a positive start to the year, with the main Mumbai index closing up 0.71 percent at 3,269.16.

Investors were cautiously optimistic about political negotiations with Pakistan.

Reuters contributed to this report.




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