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Nikkei, Hang Seng close above 9,000

By Alex Frew McMillan

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Defensive plays and exporters showed gains in Tokyo, with Asia taking a break from the selling

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Asian stocks rallied on Friday despite selling in markets around the world.

The Nikkei broke back above 9,000, gaining 1.02 percent to 9,027.55. The broader Topix put on 0.91 percent to finish at 891.60.

Most other Asian markets were higher, with South Korea up almost 0.5 percent and Singapore showing a gain going into the close. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose above its own 9,000 barrier.

But Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan all lost ground and smaller markets in the region were generally down.

Telecoms up in Tokyo

In Japan, the market rallied on telecom plays and major exporters. But bank stocks were again lower, with the government likely to get tough on bad loans.

UFJ Holdings set a lifetime low of 194,000 yen before closing 4.8 percent lower at 218,000 yen. It lost 32 percent for the week. (Full story)

nikkei
The Nikkei rallied back from below 9,000 and Thursday's close, the lowest since August 1983

UFJ, the smaller and weakest of the Big Four banks, is a creditor to several debt-laden companies that could be in trouble if the government acts on problem borrowers.

Condominium builder Daikyo, one of UFJ's customers, fell 6.56 percent to 57 yen.

Other lenders were also hit, with Mizuho Holdings falling 0.93 percent to 212,000 yen. Sumitomo Mitsui dropped 4.6 percent to 565 yen.

Topping the big-cap gains was NTT DoCoMo, roaring ahead 10.85 percent to 235,000 yen.

The cell-phone company got a ratings upgrade from investment bank Morgan Stanley and said this week it may still post a profit for the first half despite writing down $4.7 billion in its overseas holdings. (Full story)

Fixed-line parent NTT also had a strong day, up 6.78 percent to 425,000 yen.

Defensives, exporters also up

Japan Tobacco, a popular defensive play, rose 1.66 percent to 795,000 yen. Railroad stocks were also higher for similar reasons, East Japan Railway gaining 1.69 percent to 574,000 yen.

Exporters were generally higher despite the continuation of the lockout at ports on the West Coast of the United States.

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Exporters showed no impact from the U.S. ports dispute on Friday, with Sony, Toyota and Honda all up

Electronics maker Sony Corp. was up 2.78 percent to 5,170 yen. Toyota Motor, which said it is considering airlifting parts to get around the blockage, was up 1.32 percent to 3,080 yen. Honda Motor gained 2.25 percent to 4,990 yen.

Pieter van der Schaft, an economist with Barclays Capital, noted that the car companies have more flexibility than small exporters because they have plants in the United States.

He said the shipment stoppage was most threatening to toy companies and other producers of low-cost, time-sensitive goods (Asia faces recession threat)

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he would not boost spending in public works to bail Japan out. (Full story)

The yen is trading steady at 122.78 to the U.S. dollar.

Korea ends higher

In South Korea, the Kospi rose 0.44 percent to 650.92, with defensive shares also a priority for skittish investors.

Steelmaker POSCO climbed 3.18 percent to 113,500 won.

Cell-phone company SK Telecom rose 3.59 percent to 245,500 won as it said it was resuming talks with KT Corp. about unwinding their cross-holdings.

But Korean banks were hurt by pessimism about the economy and rising household debt. Kookmin Bank fell 5.68 percent to 41,500 won.

Chipmaker Hynix Semiconductor was down the 15 percent daily limit to 315 won.

Taiwan falls slightly

In Taiwan, the Taiex dropped 0.2 percent to 4,067.79, another 11-month low.

Electronics stocks were down, that subindex falling 0.57 percent. But bank stocks were higher.

Chip foundry TSMC rose 0.8 percent to T$38.00 despite a decline in its U.S. shares.

Taiwan's chip stocks were generally lower though, after a warning from Advanced Micro Devices in the United States.

On Thursday, Wall Street fell, with a slump in technology stocks sending the Nasdaq down 1.8 percent to 1,165.56, a six-year low. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.5 percent to 7,717.19. (Full story)

Australia just off

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 index ended the week with a drop, down 0.26 percent to 2,991.6.

That was despite a gain in News Corp., the largest listing, which rose 0.54 percent to A$9.24.

Big caps were generally lower, though, Telstra Corp. declining 1.2 percent to A$4.78.

National Australia Bank was down 0.8 percent to A$33.83, with other banks also lower. Westpac lost 1.78 percent to A$13.99.

New Zealand's Top 40 was also down, off 0.2 percent to 4,067.79. Telecom New Zealand led the market down, finishing off 1.2 percent at NZ$4.90.

Hang Seng closes over 9,000

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.75 percent to 9,051.37. Cathay Pacific climbed 3.23 percent to HK$11.20 with airlines likely to gain business from the U.S. port dispute.

Bank stock HSBC, the largest listing, climbed 0.63 percent to HK$80.00. China Mobile, the second-largest, rose 3.0 percent to HK$18.85. It will start marketing its initial public offering on October 14, a sale expected to raise $3 billion to $4 billion

Ports and telecom conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa fell 0.23 percent to HK$42.70, still suffering from NTT DoCoMo's decision to slash the value of its holdings in Hutch's British operations.

Singapore's Straits Times index is up 1.14 percent at 1,367.43 heading into the close, with the market propped by bargain hunting among its bank shares.



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