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Asian stocks sustain strength

By Alex Frew McMillan

hong kong
Hong Kong stocks are easing a little, as is the market in South Korea, which ran up the most on Monday

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Asian stocks are continuing the strength they showed in starting the week, with most trading in positive territory as the afternoon starts.

Japanese stocks are back in action with a gain of almost 1 percent, after the Coming of Age Day holiday on Monday.

The Nikkei 225 average is up 0.91 percent at 8,547.87 at the lunch break, feeding on the heavy gains Asia saw on Monday.

The broader Topix index is up 0.84 percent at 844.76.

Taiwan and Singapore are both up almost 1 percent as well, building on runs of almost 3 percent from Monday.

But that day's biggest gainer, South Korea, is unable to sustain its pace on Tuesday, down 0.35 percent in early afternoon.

There are also small losses, a quarter of a percent, in Hong Kong, though the market is attempting to rally.

Wall Street trod water on Monday, with the Dow Jones industrial average nudging ahead 0.1 percent to 8,785.98. But the tech-fueled Nasdaq fell 0.12 percent to 1,446.04. (U.S. roundup)

Shares in AOL Time Warner, parent of CNN, rose after its chairman, Steve Case, said he would step down in May to remove doubts about the company. (Full story)

Japan back in action with boost

In Japan, the market is getting a huge boost from cell-phone leader NTT DoCoMo, also the largest stock in Tokyo.

stocks market
NTT DoCoMo shares are driving Japan's gains, the cell-phone service getting strong customer growth

It is up 4.64 percent at 248,000 yen as the afternoon starts, after it said on Friday that it added 393,000 new mobile-phone users in December, more than half the market's growth. But parent NTT is down 2.38 percent to 410,000 yen.

That is also boosting No. 2 cell-phone company KDDI, up 2.20 percent to 372,000 yen. KDDI and NTT are also reportedly set to increase their operations in China, to prepare for the liberalization of that market in 2004. (Full story)

Banks are also running up on Tuesday, with Mizuho Holdings, the largest, up 2.02 percent to 101,000 yen. Smaller rival UFJ Holdings is topping the industry, up 3.57 percent to 116,000 yen, as investors cover some short positions.

Chip and computer maker NEC Corp. is up 1.87 percent to 435 yen. Tech investors will be looking for guidance from the world's largest chipmaker when Intel Corp. reports earnings in the United States later on Tuesday.

Advertising agency Dentsu is also firing on all cylinders, up 4.78 percent to 373,000 yen.

Hong Kong lags a little

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng is down 0.25 percent to 9,809.92, with general sluggishness in big-cap stocks.

Bank HSBC is down 0.28 percent to HK$88.75 as the market takes a breather after Monday's exertions.

taiwan market
Local industrial plays are back on top in Taiwan, where they have been on a tear since December

Oil producer CNOOC is up 0.96 percent to HK$10.55 after crude oil prices rose slightly. The stock is up around 4 percent in 2003, after running up 38 percent in 2002.

PCCW is steady at HK$6.95 after it and Britain's Cable & Wireless sold some of their stake in Singapore cell-phone carrier MobileOne.

Investors are looking for signs that C&W might sell out of its PCCW stake as it looks to shed noncore businesses.

Clothing retailer Esprit Holdings is up 2.06 percent to HK$14.85, sustaining Monday's run.

Wineries rise in Sydney

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index is up 0.25 percent at 3,077.1 in early afternoon going.

The big gainer of the day is wine company BRL Hardy, leaping 16.43 percent to A$8.93 on talk it is a takeover target for Constellation Brands of the United States.

A merger of the two companies would create the largest wine company in the world.

Beer and wine group Foster's is up 0.88 percent to A$4.59 in sympathy.

Metals and mining stocks are forging ahead, with BHP Billiton up 0.62 percent at A$9.80.

WMC Resources has recovered from early weakness to trade up 1.6 percent at A$4.48 after it said a delay at its Olympic Dam mine would cut into its copper and uranium output.

Media group News Corp. is down around 1 percent at A$12.63, despite a gain in its U.S. listing overnight.

New Zealand's Top 40 closed up 0.09 percent to 2,007.89, after crossing the 2,000 mark on Monday for the first time since November.

Industrials back on top in Taiwan

In Taiwan, the Taiex is up 0.87 percent at 5,034.80, building on its five-month high set the day before.

The focus is back on domestic industrial plays after techs surged the day before.

China Steel is seeing the heaviest trade in a 3.56 percent run to T$23.30. Taiwan Cement is second in volume terms with a "limit-up" 7 percent gain to T$16.20.

Rising commodity prices have been pushing up such industrials. Taiwan Pulp is 6.61 percent at T$6.45.

Chip foundry UMC is easing a little, off 0.84 percent to T$23.60.

Screenmaker Au Optronics is continuing to attract buyers, up 1.61 percent to T$25.20.

Korea slips after strong gains

In South Korea, the Kospi is down 0.35 percent to 645.80, pulled lower by a 1.94 percent slip in its largest listing, Samsung Electronics, to 328,000 won.

The Kospi posted the largest gains in Asia on Monday, with a leap of 3.14 percent. (Asia surges)

Retailer Shinsegae is still pushing ahead on Tuesday, up 3.57 percent to 159,500 won.

Hyundai Motor is also higher on forecasts that its sales growth will continue this year, albeit at a slower pace.

MobileOne up in Singapore

Singapore's Straits Times index is up 0.91 percent at 1,398.62, with Singapore Airlines up 1.87 percent to S$10.90.

Bank stocks are also up, DBS Group adding 0.88 percent to S$11.50 and UOB putting on 0.85 percent to S$11.90.

MobileOne is ahead 1.65 percent to S$1.23 after Cable & Wireless and PCCW sold part of their stake in the cell-phone carrier. (Full story)

In Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur's composite index is up 1.76 percent to 662.97 as state investment fund Valuecap continues to buy stock on its third day of operation.

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