26 July 2004, 09:10  Asian stocks fall, focus on tech earnings

Technology shares led Asian stock markets lower on Monday ahead of key regional corporate earnings and after sharp falls in their U.S. peers, while the dollar paused for breath before U.S. economic data this week. High oil prices -- less than $1 off a 21-year high of $42.45 hit early last month -- also weighed on markets. Gold gained $1 an ounce as the dollar took a breather from recent gains. Most Asian share markets fell as investors braced for earnings from technology firms including Sony Corp. <6758.T>, Advantest Corp. <6857.T>, Sharp Corp. <6753.T> and Taiwan's TSMC <2330.TW> and rival UMC <2303.TW> later in the week. A broker downgrade of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. <005930.KS> sent shares in the world's largest memory chip maker down 0.7 percent by 0310 GMT. Tokyo's Nikkei share average <.N225> had fallen 0.6 percent by midday to 11,122.96 after hitting a seven-week low in the previous session.
Shares in Taiwan fell 1.1 percent, with a 3.7 percent fall in TSMC, the world's largest contract microchip maker, pulling the tech sub-index <.TELI> 1.5 percent lower. "The market was not immune to losses on Wall Street. What's more, more local tech firms will post quarterly results this week and we have to watch what they will say about the third quarter," said Maggie Chien, consultant at Capital Investment Management. MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan <.MSCIAPJ> had fallen 0.3 percent by 0220 GMT to take the index more than 4 percent lower so far this year. Its tech component <.MSCIAPJIT> dropped 1.3 percent. Shares fell between 0.2 and 0.9 percent in South Korea <.KS11>, Hong Kong <.HSI> and Australia <.AXJO>.
DOLLAR TAKES BREATHER
The dollar was at $1.2128 per euro , down from $1.2092 in New York and off a one-month high of $1.2087 hit on Friday. The dollar hovered around 109.70 yen , versus 110.19 in late U.S. trade. U.S. economic growth figures will be the focus for global financial markets this week seeking further evidence on the strength of economic recovery. A Federal Reserve survey of regional economic activity will be released on Wednesday In U.S. equities, the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> closed below the 10,000 level for the first time in two months on Friday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index <.IXIC> fell more than 2 percent and notched a fresh low for the year. U.S. earnings so far have been generally positive, but figures have been overshadowed by cautious outlooks. Wall Street's S&P 500 index <.SPX> is down about 2 percent so far this year, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq <.IXIC> has dropped 7.7 percent over the period. The FTSE Eurotop 300 index <.FTEU3> of pan-European blue-chip shares is up 0.8 percent for the year. South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor Inc. <006600.KS>, the world's third-largest maker of memory chips, shed 0.9 percent despite the company saying it had swung to a quarterly profit. In Tokyo, bargain-hunting propped up battered technology shares, such as Advantest Corp. <6857.T>, limiting overall falls. Advantest, the world's top maker of memory chip testers, gained 2 percent after hitting an 11-month low last week, helped by a weekend newspaper report it would probably beat its profit forecast for the April-September first half. Japanese government bond prices rose, pushing the yield on the benchmark 261st 10-year cash bond <0#JPTSY=JBTC> down 0.5 basis point to 1.800 percent. Oil climbed 3 cents a barrel to $41.74, while gold was around $391 an ounce, up from about $390.///

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