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Stocks in Asia fall again

By Alex Frew McMillan

Snow Brand Milk shares jumped 32 percent Friday after the dairy company won a debt waiver
Snow Brand Milk shares jumped 32 percent Friday after the dairy company won a debt waiver

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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Asian stocks slipped Friday to close the week in the red, with falls of 2 percent in South Korea and Taiwan.

Japan eased slightly and only Australia and Hong Kong managed to show gains.

Japan's Nikkei 225 average ended the day down 0.42 percent to 8,448.16, while the broader Topix dipped just into the red, off 0.1 percent to 839.11. It was a second straight day of declines for the Topix.

South Korea was off almost 3 percent earlier in the day as tech stocks plunged. The Kospi finished at 577.48, a decline of 2.04 percent.

That was matched by Taiwan, which continued Thursday's hefty decline with a further fall of 2.03 percent to 4,735.37.

Singapore ended slightly lower, with Malaysia off just over half a percent. New Zealand ended down 1.17 percent.

U.S. stocks were split on Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling 0.7 percent to 7,929.30 while Nasdaq gained 0.02 percent to 1,301.73. (Full story)

Japan drifts on tension

Tokyo's market drifted Friday as investors continued to fret about possible war. Tech stocks were hit hard, with Fujitsu down almost 4 percent to 317 yen, Toshiba off 2.74 percent to 355 yen and Mitsubishi Electric losing 3.95 percent to 316 yen.

Toyota finished higher after posting strong earnings earlier in the week and announcing a new U.S. plant

Banks were also down as they continued to sell stock ahead of the end of the Japanese financial year in March. Mizuho Holdings lost 2.42 percent to 122,100 yen and UFJ Holdings fell 2.68 percent to 145,000 yen.

But telecom shares registered gains after a shaky start. NTT DoCoMo rose 0.87 percent to 232,000 yen, KDDI was up 0.27 percent to 368,000 yen and NTT moved ahead 1.99 percent to 410,000 yen.

Smaller rival Japan Telecom, subject to a possible sale by parent Vodafone to a U.S. buyout fund, eased 0.27 percent to 365,000 yen. (Full story)

Investors continued to buy into defensive plays, pushing Japan Tobacco up 0.89 percent to 726,000 yen.

Toyota Motor was up 0.34 percent to 2,975 yen and Honda was up 0.73 percent to 4,130 yen. Japanese makers such as Toyota are expanding their U.S. truck production to capitalize on one of their strongest growth markets. (Full story)

The yen is slightly weaker at 119.89 to the U.S. dollar, with currency analysts still predicting the dollar will weaken if war breaks out.

Hong Kong gets a break

PCCW first denied that it had bid on Cable & Wireless, then said it had approached the company for talks

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng ended up 0.27 percent to 9,150.95. HSBC was up a similar 0.31 percent to HK$82.00.

Oil producer CNOOC continues to be one of the main gainers from possible conflict in the Gulf, putting on 1.42 percent to HK$10.70.

The prospect of higher fuel prices has hurt airlines. But bargain hunters stepped in to buy Cathay Pacific on Friday, pushing Hong Kong's flagship carrier up 0.45 percent to HK$11.15.

Telecom company PCCW was down 1.65 percent to HK$5.95 after the company denied it had made a bid to buy British telecom Cable & Wireless, then confirmed it had approached C&W for talks only to be rebuffed. (Full story)

Micro-motor maker Johnson Electric was 3.35 percent higher at HK$9.25.

Australia showing biggest gains

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index put on 0.69 percent to 2,906.0, registering the largest gain in the region and recovering some of Thursday's decline, which took it to levels not seen since early 2000.

Australia's economy is relatively insulated and reliant on raw materials and agriculture, which means it will likely hold up well if war does hit the Middle East.

Wesfarmers jumped 3.02 percent to A$27.95, regaining some of the ground lost from the country suffering through a severe drought.

Mining company and oil producer Rio Tinto rose 1.12 percent to A$33.32, with a 2.43 percent gain to A$9.27 for industry peer BHP Billiton.

Food group Goodman Fielder added 1.12 percent to A$1.80 after it agreed to publish corrective advertising and a supplementary statement over its comments on a hostile takeover offer from smaller Burns Philp.

Coles Myer, Australia's biggest retailer, fell 0.82 percent to A$6.06 after analysts downgraded its earnings.

New Zealand's Top 40 closed down 1.17 percent to 1,935.84 as the market returned from a holiday.

Retailer The Warehouse plunged another 5.16 percent to NZ$5.88 after disappointing earnings earlier this week. Telecom New Zealand fell 0.67 percent to NZ$5.88.

Taiwan continues tumble

Taiwan's Taiex was down another 2.03 percent to 4,735.37, having fallen 3.6 percent on Thursday when trading resumed after a week-long break.

chip samsung
Chipmakers such as Samsung had a torrid time in Korea and Taiwan, with both closing sharply lower

Tech stocks suffered. Chip foundry TSMC was down 5.4 percent, leaving Taiwan's largest listing at T$42.00, while smaller rival UMC eased 1.5 percent to T$19.70.

China Steel, one of the few gainers on Thursday, gave back 3.73 percent to T$23.20. Among industrials, Nan Ya Plastic lost 5 percent and Asia Cement gave up almost 7 percent.

Investors say the market should steady once overseas investors get their selling out of their system.

Korea sets selling pace

South Korea's Kospi index dipped 2.04 percent to 577.48, with market sources suggesting it moved through a barrier of resistance below 600.

Samsung Electronics, the largest listing, fell 3.18 percent to 274,000 won after competitor Micron Technologies tumbled 6 percent in U.S. trading.

Cell-phone service and No. 2 listing SK Telecom was down even harder, tumbling 5.87 percent lower to 160,500 won after the company reaffirmed its controversial spending plan. (Full story)

Fixed-line telecom KT Corp lost 3.48 percent to 44,400.

Retailer Shinsegae recovered from earlier losses to end flat at 157,000 won, with the heaviest selling mainly in techs.

Singapore flat

Singapore's Straits Times index finished down 0.17 percent to 1,285.41, with gains for Singapore Press Holdings.

The media group rose 2.79 percent to S$18.40, while bank stock UOB rose 0.96 percent to S$10.50.

There e falls for DBS Group, off 0.99 percent to S$10.00, and Singapore Airlines, down 1.55 percent to S$9.50.

SingTel, which reported a better than expected third-quarter result Friday morning, fell 0.75 percent to S$1.32. (Full story)

Malaysian stocks were also lower, with the Kuala Lumpur composite down 0.56 percent to 661.25.

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