TOKYO -- For weeks, Asian investors have been saying that a quarter-point rise in U.S. interest rates was already in the price of the region's stocks, and Wednesday's trading proved that they were right. After the U.S.

Federal Reserve

hiked short-term interest rates, Asian investors got along with their trading day as if nothing had happened.

Markets in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Taiwan all edged modestly higher, in generally quiet trading.

In Japan, the

Nikkei 225

index rose 131.23 points to 19,733.59, while the

Topix

index, which includes all shares listed on the

Tokyo Stock Exchange's

first section, shed 14.23 to 1658.32. The

Jasdaq

small-cap index rose 0.88 to 118.28, while the Nikkei

over-the-counter

shares slipped 12.70 to 2423.30.

Japanese investors are patiently waiting for April 1, the first day of the new fiscal year. Experts predict fund managers, who are eager to spend some of the money that has poured into a dozen or so new funds set up over the past several months, are ready to come into the market to pick up a large variety of shares.

But Net shares have been dumped by many dealers at domestic firms, in favor of food, beverage, and transportation companies with more solid-looking business plans, traders said.

Softbank

shed 13,000 yen, or 10.4%, to 112,000,

Hikari Tsushin

lost 15,200, or 14.6%, to 88,800,

NEC

(NIPNY)

lost 90, or 3.1%, to 2860 while

Fujitsu

(FJTSY)

lost 115, or 3.8%, to 2935.

Sony

(SNE) - Get Report

climbed 430, or 1.7%, to 26,380 as it announced plans to set up a new Net firm called Cybergene.com. The new company, which will start operations April 16, will supply information via a network interface that gives customers quicker access to the Internet, by allowing them to click on icons without the use of a search engine or portal.

Mitsubishi Motors

shed 5, or 1.2%, to 410. The market is awaiting results from the planned board meeting today that is expected to give the go-ahead for

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

to take a 33.4% stake in the firm. This would give the German-American auto giant veto power on the Mitsubishi board.

In other news,

Nasdaq Japan

, the new high-tech and growth market scheduled to open in the latter half of 2000, said it will accept preliminary applications for firms wishing to list on the bourse in late April. Some OTC firms, including

Yahoo! Japan

, have indicated they may want to jump ship.

With Japanese exporters looking to sell the greenback 107.00 yen, level, the dollar remained listless around 106.65 yen all day.

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

index rose 347.06, or 2.0%, to 17,547.04, after investors shook off near-term worries over an interest rate rise.

HSBC

(HBC)

benefited, rising HK$1.50, or 1.7%, to 89.00.

Investors are on the lookout for fiscal results from

Cheung Kong

Thursday, which is 50% owned by

Hutchison Whampoa

(HUWHY)

, up 3.00, or 2.2%, to 138.50. Cheung Kong, up 4.00, or 3.7%, to 112.00, is expected to book profits of about $59 to $66 billion, with most of these earnings coming from Hutchison, which also reports on Thursday.

After a near-1% dip early in the day, Taiwan's

TWSE

index closed up 64.91 at 9069.39. The government said it had not activated its so-called market stabilization fund to buy shares today, an encouraging sign to some that calm had returned to the market after Saturday's election of opposition candidate

Chen Shui-bian

as president.

The market's calm may be due to a hoped-for shift in the policy of Chen's Democratic Progressive Party, which is reportedly entertaining the idea of scrapping a promise to hold a referendum on sovereignty. Chen has already said he would not make a unilateral declaration of independence, a softening of his previous stand on the issue.