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June 27, 2017

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Taiwan shares plunge amid rising geopolitical tensions

Shares in Taiwan took a beating Friday, ending more than 1 percent lower as sentiment was affected by rising geopolitical tensions after the United States dropped a powerful bomb in Afghanistan earlier in the day, dealers said.

Selling was seen in many large-cap stocks across the board, led by contract chip maker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC, 台積電) after its cautious second-quarter sales estimate, dealers said.

However, smartphone camera lens supplier Largan Precision Co. (大立光) gave some support to the broader market, after it reported a record high of gross margin for the first quarter, dealers said.

The weighted index on the Taiwan Stock Exchange closed down 103.75 points, or 1.05 percent, at 9,732.93, after moving between 9,730.94 and 9,808.33. Turnover totaled NT$86.46 billion (US$2.84 billion) during the session.

The market opened 0.31 percent lower in a knee-jerk reaction to a falling Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 130 points overnight after the U.S. dropped its biggest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS targets in Afghanistan, dealers said.

Before the military action in Afghanistan, the U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on Syria in response to a deadly chemical attack in a rebel-held area and deployed the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its battle group to waters off the Korean Peninsula, reportedly to deter North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

On Friday, worry escalated that the rising geopolitical tensions will take a toll on global financial markets and create greater volatility in the Taiwan market,

"Taiwan, like other regional markets, cannot isolate itself from the global political uncertainty," Ta Ching Securities analyst Andy Hsu said, referring to the losses on the Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo markets.

"Few investors can be sure how long such unfavorable geopolitics will last so they rushed to cut their holdings in local shares in a bid to avoid further losses down the road," he said.

Hsu said that liquid large-cap stocks were targeted by investors, with TSMC leading the downturn after the world's largest chip maker on Thursday forecast an 8-9 percent quarterly decline in its second-quarter consolidated sales, citing the slow season and a stronger Taiwan dollar.

TSMC, the most heavily weighted stock on the local market, fell 1.31 percent to close at NT$189.00 with 30.70 million shares changing hands.

The stock dragged down the bellwether electronics sector and the semiconductor sub-index 0.93 percent and 1.27 percent, respectively.

"I am not particularly worried about TSMC's outlook after the second quarter," Hsu said. "I agree with its forecast of a strong comeback in the third quarter, which is usually a peak season for the semiconductor industry," Hsu said.

Meanwhile, Largan, a supplier to Apple Inc., bucked the downturn on the broader market, rising 8.84 percent to end at NT$4,800.00 after the smartphone camera lens maker reported a record high gross margin of 70.9 percent for the second quarter, up from 70.72 percent a quarter earlier.

Also in the high-tech sector, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (鴻海), the world's largest contract electronics maker, fell 1.83 percent to close at NT$96.70, and PC brand Asustek Computer Inc. (華碩) shed 1.55 percent to end at NT$286.00.

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