US STOCKS shrugged off the shift of emphasis towards higher interest rates in the Fed's monetary policy and the Dow Jones was slightly up at mid-day, led by activity in a handful of high-profile technology stocks.
Dell Computer was the most actively traded stock, falling $4 3/16 to $39 7/8 after reporting a dip in gross margins, but semi-conductor maker Applied Materials and Internet portal Lycos were in demand. Airline stocks fell sharply on reports of falling seat revenues.
THE NIKKEI 225 index fell a further 250.44 to 16,128.18 - 1.53 per cent - as a result of profit-taking largely blamed on hints from the Federal Open Markets Committee meeting in the United States yesterday that a rise in interest rates is being considered.
Japanese bank stocks came under additional pressure after a report claimed the doubtful loan portfolio of 15 leading banks could be closer to 20 trillion yen compared with 14 trillion under previous calculations. Sumitomo, Fuji and Tokyo-Mitsubishi all fell by more than 3 per cent.
THE CHANGE of emphasis in US monetary policy sent shares in Hong Kong sharply lower, although the Hang Seng closed above its worst at 12,403.14, down 223.96 points or 1.77 per cent.
Dealers said the link between the Hong Kong and US currency means that Hong Kong would be forced to follow a rise of a half per cent or more in US rates.
HSBC closed 3.00 lower at HK$257.00 while Hang Seng Bank fell 4.00 to HK$81.00. Sun Hung Kai Properties, China Resources and Hutchison Whampoa also fell.
SHARES in Preussag, the former steel and engineering group now relaunched as a tourism specialist, led the German markets higher, jumping 6.2 per cent to 48.86 euros after clinching the disposal of plant construction businesses and shipyard in an asset swap with Babcock. MAN continued to gain ground and ThyssenKrupp gained 3.5 per cent to 18.95 euros after recent weakness, Deutsche Telekom forged ahead in sympathy with BT, but banks and motors were mixed. The Xetra Dax index closed 1 per cent higher at 5,213.30.