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Asian Stocks End Higher, But Japan Sinks

CNBC.com with Wires
Friday, 4 Jan 2008 | 5:41 AM ET

Japanese stock prices plunged as much as 5 percent Friday, losing ground after jittery trade on Wall Street amid concerns about the U.S. economy and rising oil prices.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Average lost 616.37 points, or 4.03 percent, to close at 14,691.41 points on the Tokyo Stock Exchange during Friday's half-day session.

The TSE had been shut since Monday for the New Year's holidays. The exchange resumes full-day trading next Monday.

Though the U.S. market ended Thursday trade nearly flat, the Dow Jones industrial average has lost 2.3 percent since Dec. 28, the last day of trade for Tokyo markets.

Worries about the economy in the United States -- a key export market for Japanese manufacturers -- as well as the dollar's weakness against the yen sent export-oriented shares down. Decliners included Toyota Motor, Nissan Motor and Sony.

Rising oil and raw material prices also took their toll on exporters, while giving commodity stocks a boost.

"High flying blue-chip exporters are going to have a tough time coping with rising commodity prices, a stronger yen and a slowing U.S. economy," said Masanaga Kono, strategist at Societe Generale Asset Management.

Tokyo's broader Topix index, which includes all shares on the exchange's first section, lost 63.77 points, or 4.3 percent, to 1,411.91.

Meanwhile, the rest of Asia recovered after a bleak start. The KOSPI finished 0.6 percent higher at 1,863.90.

Hong Kong stocks rebounded on Friday, with oil stocks such as PetroChina climbing as crude prices hovered below $100 per barrel. The benchmark Hang Seng Index rose 2.4 percent.

On the mainland, stocks received a boost as investors bought oil and resources stocks. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8 percent.

In Sydney, Australian shares edged up by 0.3 percent, recovering from Thursday's two-week closing low, as stronger metals and oil prices lifted miners such as BHP Billiton while investors chased banks for their attractive dividend yields.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index added 16.1 points, after falling 1 percent on Thursday.

Singapore and Taiwan shares recovered in the afternoon after treading in negative territory during the early session. The Straits Times Index was up 0.17 percent at 3,402 while the Taiwan Weighted Index was down 41.18 points or 0.50 pct at 8,143.02.