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Asian Markets Update: Stocks Fall Across the Region as Nasdaq's Plunge Reverberates

But Japan looks forward to a better tankan survey, and plenty of new cash from mutual funds.

TOKYO -- Fiscal year 1999 ended on a somewhat sour note Friday as key stock indices all closed lower, hurt by

Nasdaq's

4% fall overnight.

But neither traders nor investors were truly depressed, since mutual funds in Japan are awash with fresh cash, and key data to be released Monday is expected to signal an improvement in business sentiment for the short-term.

The

Nikkei 225

fell 104.18 points to 20,377.32, while the

Topix

index, which includes all shares listed on the

Tokyo Stock Exchange's

first section shed 6.51 to 1705.94. The

Jasdaq

small-cap index skidded 5.13, or 4.5%, to 108.94, while the Nikkei

over-the-counter

index fell 89.38, or 3.8%, to 2265.49.

In contrast to Nasdaq's fall, the market was also digesting the news of a record high unemployment rate for Japan, which hit 4.9% in February. This was seen as good news for stock investors, because higher unemployment is a signal that that Japan Inc. is actually restructuring. Expectations in the market are for a strong "tankan" survey of corporate sentiment from the

Bank of Japan

on Monday. The survey is widely watched to gauge how corporations feel about the current and future business environment.

Tech and Net plays bounced back from early lows but couldn't end in the black.

Yahoo! Japan

fell 7 million yen, or 10.1%, to 62.3 million,

Softbank

shed 5000, or 5.2%, to 91,500,

Hitachi

(HIT)

lost 56, or 4.4%, to 1219.

NEC

(NIPNY)

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, which announced plans to set up an online trading firm with France's

Societe Generale

, fell 20, to 3030.

Selected blue chips were favored by fund managers, with

Toyota Motor

(TM) - Get Report

up 90, or 1.7%, to 5370 and

Sakura Bank

(SAKUY)

up 28, or 3.7%, to 781.

The

Nihon Keizai Shimbun

said the TSE will likely launch after-hours trading from spring 2001. Tentative trading hours are set for 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. local time, and the move is to satisfy Net traders who are anxious to trade securities before the next trading session, the paper said.

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

index closed 60.61 lower at 17406.54 in quiet trading.

Hutchison Whampoa

(HUWHY)

shed HK$1.00 to 141.00,

China Telecom

(CHL) - Get Report

gained 0.75, or 1.1%, to 68.75 (after falling by more than 7% yesterday), while

Cheung Kong

fell 1.00 to 116.00.

China's entry into the

World Trade Organization

hit a snag today, with E.U. negotiators reportedly going home from Beijing without a deal. Some progress was made but details are scant at this point. Also up in the air is permanent favored trading status with the United States: 20 Democratic Congressman wrote this week to President Bill Clinton, requesting that China be made to show improvements in its human rights record before being granted favored status.

The dollar was sharply weaker against the yen following the fall on Nasdaq, changing hands at 105.10. Talk in the market this week is that the Bank of Japan would intervene to buy dollars at the 105.00 yen level.