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TOKYO -- Although most of Asia closed lower, Asian investors had finished worrying about the overnight slide in U.S. equities by the first cup of morning java as they turned to domestic news to guide trading.

The benchmark

Nikkei 225

fell 297.75, or 1.5%, to 19,710.02, while the


index, comprising shares listed on the

Tokyo Stock Exchange's

first section, fell 18.36, or 1.1%, to 1729.47. The


small-cap index rose 1.75, or 1.6%, to 113.02, while the Nikkei


shares climbed 5.15 to 2422.53.

Blue-chips were sold off by many foreign investors, including

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone


, which closed down 30,000, or 1.8%, to 1.6 million. The selling emerged despite the telecom giant's announcement that it will cut its monthly Internet access fees in parts of Tokyo and Osaka by 50%, to about 4,000 yen ($37), after May.



couldn't shake widespread talk that the March release of its PlayStation2 game console might be delayed, which prompted shares to fall 860, or 2.9%, to 28,710. The

Yomiuri Shimbun

today reported that PlayStation2 might have problems running existing game software.

Gainers included


, up 33, or 3.9%, to 875. The firm said it developed the world's first single-chip integrated circuit for videophones. The chip will be used in the new generation of digital mobile phones slated to debut in Japan as early as 2001.

The small-cap rally was helped by fund managers picking up

Trend Micro


, which soared 2000, or 7.8%, to 27,800.

Although Asia managed to stave off heavy losses, traders were still focused on U.S. rates and remained on their guard.

"The (U.S.) bond market doesn't know how to read (



Lawrence) Summers

just yet and that's why it feels like the inmates are running the asylum," said one Treasuries dealer at a European firm here. The dealer said another selloff in the bond market was in the cards because "everyone is caught in the wrong position," which needs to be cleared before the weekend.

With Tokyo markets closed Friday for a national holiday, further selling in the U.S. could have the Nikkei looking to tap 19,200 next week.

The greenback stood around 108.56 yen in lethargic trading, with resistance pegged at 110.00 yen and then at 112.00 yen.

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

index rose 25.71 to 16,845.17.

China Telecom


shaved off recent gains to close down 0.500 at 63.75, while

Hutchison Whampoa


climbed 3.500, or 2.8%, to 131.00.

Besides worrying about U.S. rates, Hong Kong is bracing itself for a local rate rise as well. The Hong Kong Association of Banks is expected to hike bank deposit rates by 25 basis points to 4.0% Friday.


Straits Times

was down 2.02 at 2225.30, while Korea's


index fell 9.87, or 1.0%, to 966.18.