TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - Taiwan shares extended Monday's 2.4 percent decline to end at their lowest level in three weeks Tuesday, as investors became more cautious ahead of Saturday's presidential election.
The benchmark index of the Taiwan Stock Exchange ended down 46.26 points, or 0.7 percent, at 6589.72, its lowest closing level since Feb. 24.
Decliners outnumbered gainers 630 to 205 with 137 issues unchanged in trading valued at 145.93 billion New Taiwan dollars (US$4.3 billion).
With the presidential election only four days away and the two candidates neck and neck, many investors are increasingly concerned the political wrangling could intensify, analysts said.
"The political risks are high, so many investors are cashing out,'' said Peter Hsu, assistant manager at Shinkong Securities.
Mega Financial Holding, in which the government holds a large stake, fell 2.2 percent to NT$22.40.
Chang Hwa Bank, one of Taiwan's three major, government-controlled commercial banks, dropped 1.4 percent to NT$21.10.
In contrast, companies or banks with links to the opposition outperformed.
Fuhwa Financial Holding rose 2.4 percent to NT$16.90, while Hsinchu International Bank gained about 1 percent to NT$21.30.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, the world's largest contract chipmaker, fell 0.8 percent to NT$60.50, after foreign investors sold the stock heavily Monday, when it dropped 1.6 percent.
Foreign investors net sold NT$8.5 billion (US$254.7 million) of shares on the Taipei bourse Monday, likely to help meet mutual fund redemption pressure after recent losses in U.S. stocks, analysts said.
However, there were signs some investors might already be hunting for bargains.
Dynamic random access memory chip makers gained after South Korea's Samsung Electronics, the world's largest memory-chip maker, said it expects a supply shortage of DRAM chips beginning in the second half of this year.
Among DRAM makers, Winbond Electronics gained 1.2 percent to NT$17.30, while Nanya Technology added 3.6 percent to NT$25.90.
The over-the-counter market, also known as the Gre Tai Securities Market, ended up 0.21 point, or 0.1 percent, at 147.55.
Among active OTC issues, DRAM maker Powerchip Semiconductor rose 5.4 percent to NT$27.50, while competitor ProMOS Technologies added 4.2 percent to NT$17.50.
With many investors expected to remain cautious before the election, the market will likely remain under pressure, said Shinkong's Hsu.
He said he expected the key index to trade between 6500 and 6600 Wednesday. - AP
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