MOST stock markets in Asia have clawed their way back to end the current week higher than a week ago.
The tech-heavy Seoul and Taipei markets were the star performers, with investor sentiment buoyed by the stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings announced during the week by IBM Corp and Finnish handphone maker Nokia.
For the week, Seoul's Kospi Index gained 42 points or 7.2% to 625, while the Taiwan Weighted Index rose 128.3 points or 2.8% to 4,658. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 closed at 7,874, up 57 points or 0.7% from a week ago.
The Hong Kong and Singapore markets, however, ended their holiday-shortened week on Thursday lower than the previous week's close. Singapore's Straits Times Index shed 19 points or 1.5% to 1,282, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 67 points or 0.8% to 8,579.
Sentiment in these two markets was affected by worries about the impact of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak on their economies. Indeed, Singapore has slashed its economic growth forecast for this year to 0.5%-2.5% from 2%-5%.
On the local front, the KLSE Composite Index (CI) recouped earlier losses to close at 635.6 points, up 5.6 points or 0.9% over the previous week's close. The CI began its recovery on Wednesday after having slid to a near one-month low of 624 on Tuesday.
Tech stocks on the KLSE were also boosted by the substantial gains made by the Nasdaq Index, which rose 66.7 points or 5% for the week to a three-month high of 1,425.5.
Both chipmakers MPI Bhd and Unisem rose 20 sen to RM11.50 and RM5.60 respectively. IT service providers such as Computer Systems Advisers Bhd and Mesiniaga Bhd also regained ground, finishing 6 sen and 12 sen up respectively to RM2.65 and RM4.14 yesterday.
OSK Research analyst Shin Kao Jack saw the rebound in local tech stock prices as largely a technical one. He said the gains might not be sustainable because company fundamentals did not justify the current share prices.
The earnings visibility in the tech sector remained low, he added.
Most analysts concurred that there was a slowdown in IT spending in the private sector against the backdrop of economic uncertainties. They said IT spending in the last couple of years had mainly been driven by the public sector.
Looking ahead, TA Securities head of research C.K Ngu expects the local bourse to trade in a tight range in the absence of fresh leads to drive the market. He also does not put much hope on the coming results season spurring the market as he believes that there might not be many upside surprises.
Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Malakoff Bhd and Malaysia Resources Corp Bhd are among those due to announce results for their second financial quarter ended Feb 28.
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