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Asian Markets Lifted by Growing Optimism

October 21, 2003|From Times Staff Reports and Bloomberg News

Rallies in Asian stocks on Monday lifted key indexes to at least 52-week highs, bolstering the region's claim to having the world's hottest markets in 2003.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index rose 123.82 points, or 1.1%, to 11,161.71, its highest closing level in 16 months. Brokerage firm stocks led the way on expectations that they will benefit from individual investors' jumping back into the market.

The Nikkei index has gained 30.1% year to date in yen terms on optimism that Japanese business activity is accelerating. For U.S. investors in Japanese stocks, the Nikkei's rise amounts to 40% in dollar terms, adjusted for the appreciation of the yen against the U.S. currency.

By contrast, the U.S. Standard & Poor's 500 index is up 18.7% since Jan. 1.

Economic optimism has lifted most Asian markets this year, as investors bet that Asian companies will benefit from rising global consumer and business demand for goods and services.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index on Monday rose 103.40 points, or 0.9%, to 12,147.89 -- a two-year high -- after the city's chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, said the government may raise its 2003 economic growth forecast for a second time this year.

In Thailand, the SET index added 4.18 points, or 0.7%, to 592.78, the highest closing level since 1997. President Bush, visiting Thailand on Sunday, said the United States wanted to negotiate a free-trade accord with Thailand.

The Thai SET index has zoomed 66.3% this year in local currency terms.

Other Pacific Rim markets reaching at least 52-week highs on Monday included Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia.

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Hot stocks across the Pacific

Many Asian stock markets this year are performing far better than North American and European markets, in local currencies and in dollar terms. A sampling:

*--* Monday YTD % chg: YTD % chg: County/index close In local currency In U.S. dollars Thailand/SET 592.78 +66.3% +79.4% U.S./Nasdaq composite 1,925.14 +44.2% +44.2% Taiwan/weighted 6,077.89 +36.5% +39.5% Philippines/composite 1,368.86 +34.4% +31.9% Singapore/Straits Times 1,780.24 +32.8% +31.9% Hong Kong/Hang Seng 12,147.89 +30.3% +31.1% Japan/Nikkei 225 11,161.71 +30.1% +40.0% Mexico/IPC 7,875.77 +28.5% +19.9% South Korea/composite 776.44 +23.7% +24.4% Germany/DAX 3,559.33 +23.1% +36.5% U.S./S&P 500 1,044.68 +18.7% +18.7% Canada/S&P-TSX 7,719.85 +16.7% +39.0% Britain/FTSE-100 4,347.50 +10.3% +14.5% France/CAC 3,358.80 +9.6% +21.6%

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Sources: Bloomberg News

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