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Asian markets close in the red

Big bank Mizuho Holdings fell more than 6 percent on Tuesday
Big bank Mizuho Holdings fell more than 6 percent on Tuesday

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TOKYO, Japan -- Asian markets closed mainly lower Tuesday, with only Australia and South Korea showing slight gains.

Taiwan had the region's biggest loss, off more than 2 percent.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 average finished down 0.9 percent at 8,692.97. The broader Topix index was off 0.58 percent at 856.70.

Japanese banking stocks sank on bad-loan concerns, as they prepare to close their books for the end of the Japanese financial year on March 31.

Big bank Mizuho Holdings fell 6.38 percent to 132,000 yen, while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMFG) continued Monday's plunge, falling another 8.29 percent to 343,000 yen.

SMFG, the second largest of the Japanese banking groups, announced on Monday it would boost its capital base by issuing $2.5 billion in preferred stock to overseas investors next month. (Full story)

Consumer electronics leader Sony lost just over 1 percent to 4,660 yen, while other big exporters such as automakers Toyota and Honda also were weaker at the close.

The market's biggest stock, NTT DoCoMo, fell 2.02 percent to 242,000 yen but Japan Telecom managed a 0.8 percent gain to 378,000 yen.

Hitachi, Toshiba weaker

Japanese tech stocks lost ground, with Sony and Toshiba posting falls
Japanese tech stocks lost ground, with Sony and Toshiba posting falls

Among chip and computer makers, Hitachi fell 2.21 percent to 530 yen, Toshiba was off 1.29 percent to 383 yen and NEC was 2.11 percent lower at 465 yen. Fujitsu recovered from early falls to finish 0.28 percent higher at 353 yen.

Tokyo Electron, Japan's biggest maker of chip-producing equipment, lost 1.38 percent to 5,730 yen after early gains.

Industry group Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International said Monday that global sales of chip-making equipment rose 43 percent in December from the month before to $1.82 billion.

Elsewhere in the region, South Korea's Kospi put on 0.26 percent, Taiwan's Taiex was off 2.12 percent after Monday's big gains and Singapore's Straits Times index is down 0.64 percent at 1,292.80 near the close.

Hong Kong is virtually flat, with the Hang Seng index down just 0.12 percent at 9,372.73 near the close. Big bank HSBC is up slightly at HK$84.25

There was no direction for Asian markets from the United States, with Wall Street closed on Monday for the Presidents Day national holiday.

In Australia, the SA&P/ASX 200 ended the day just in the black, up 0.02 percent at 2,844.7.

Gains for Coles, AMP

Among Australian stocks to show gains were leading retailer Coles Myer, up 1.55 percent to A$5.89 and insurer and funds manager AMP, up 1.6 percent to A$8.25.

Big bank CBA was down again, off 0.37 percent to A$24.49 after falling to near a three-year low on Monday.

News Corp, the market's biggest stock, slipped 0.73 percent to A$10.83.

Gaiming equipment maker Aristocrat Leisure fell another 2 percent to A$1.94 after releasing its full-year results. Its share price has more than halved in the past two weeks, following a profit warning. (Full story)

The heavy impact of the drought on Australia has become clearer with the release of figures Tuesday showing winter grain production in 2002 was down 61 percent on the record 2001 harvest. (Full story)

In New Zealand the Top 40 index closed 0.06 percent lower at 1,943.66. Telecom New Zealand was unchanged at NZ$4.53.

Korea in the black

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is buying into Symbian
Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is buying into Symbian

After Monday's gain of almost 5 percent in the Kospi, South Korean bluechips initially fell, then gained strength as the day wore on.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics put on 0.86 percent to 293,000 won and KT Corp added 1.66 percent to 45,850 won.

Samsung said at the 3GSM mobile phone convention in Cannes on Monday that it is buying a 5 percent stake in British mobile software company Symbian. (Full story)

SK Telecom, usually an investor favorite, finished down 2.84 percent to 171,000 won after group vice chairman Chey Tae Won faced a probe over alleged insider stock trading. (Full story)

Big exporter Hyundai Motor was another to lose, slipping 1.08 percent to 27,400 won.

Big steelmaker Posco rose 0.87 percent to 116,500 won.

In Taiwan, chip foundry TSMC fell 2.05 percent to T$42.90 and rival UMC lost 2.4 percent to T$20.30.

The market was broadly lower after Monday's strong surge, the Taiex dipping 2.12 percent to 4,605.31.

China Steel was one of the few gainers, up 1.75 percent to T$23.20.

In Singapore, banking leader DBS is unchanged at S$10.10, while Singapore Airlines is down 2 percent to S$9.80. The airline said on Monday it could quickly launch a regional no-frills carrier if necessary. (Full story)

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