SHARES closed modestly lower after a rally in financial stocks ran out of steam in the afternoon.
The FTSE 100 index closed 31 down to 6,322.1. Merger rumours among banks and hopes of a rate cut triggered a jump of over 100 points in the blue- chip index. However, the gains were reversed in the afternoon when a weak opening on Wall Street triggered some selling. The undercard had a subdued day, with the FTSE 250 falling 8.2 to 5710.1 and the Small Cap finishing 4.4 higher at 2570.5.
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THE DOW JONES Industrial Average fell 0.89 per cent, or 96.44 points, at 10,732.84. IBM led the downturn, losing $4-5/8 at $225-3/4, followed by Hewlett-Packard, down $4-1/8 at $89-3/4.
Dell Computer, the most actively traded stock, fell $13/16 at $36.5. America Online fell $5-3/8 to $121-1/6. Microsoft fell $3/8 at $77-3/16. Philip Morris fell $1/16 at $39-13/16. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 46.77 at 2,473.37. The Nasdaq 100 Index lost 33.93 at 2,080.47. The Standard & Poor's 500 also fell, losing 14.60 at 1,315.69.
JAPAN'S BENCHMARK Nikkei 225 stock average rose 97.51, or 0.6 per cent, to 16,390.49. Falls in earnings by Nissan and others dampened the gain, however. Yamanouchi, Japan's No 3 drugmaker, added 10 per cent to 4,530 yen after it said it would extend a cancer-drug patent.
Takeda Chemical Industries rose 2.3 per cent to 5,690 yen. Taisho Pharmaceuticals rose 1.1 per cent to 3,740 yen on expectations for its anti-baldness treatment, Riup. Nissan fell 2.3 per cent to 518 yen after reporting 27.7bn yen net losses on Friday.
HONG KONG'S Hang Seng Index rose 1.3 per cent to 12,436.86, surging 150 points in the last 30 minutes of trading.
Traders rushed to settle their positions before the May Hang Seng Index futures contracts expire on Thursday.
Guangdong Investment rose 13 per cent to HK$1.98.
Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings was up 16.2 per cent to HK$17.55, after saying that it may launch a satellite one year ahead of schedule.
BRAZIL'S BENCHMARK stock index, the Bovespa, fell 3.4 per cent, or 398.86 points, at 11,328.95. Rio de Janeiro's IBV index was down 174.000 at 40,476.00. Telecom Brasil-Pfd, down R$5.79 at R$152.80, led the downswing and was the most actively traded stock. Centrais Electricas Bras-Pr B was down R$1.90 at R$39.40. Telecomum Brasileiras Sa-Prf was down R$0.02 at R$0.09. Earlier the Bovespa hit a day's high of 11,839.55. Tele Norte Celular Part bucked the trend, up R$0.02 at R$0.95. The real gained strength to 1.7000 against the dollar.