Asia stocks fall on US stimulus jitters; Europe up

Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Fears the U.S. will soon start withdrawing its economic stimulus continued to unnerve Asian stocks Monday while European markets inched higher.

Hopes that the European Central Bank will cut its key interest rate at a meeting Thursday gave a lift to the region's markets. Among countries that use the euro, unemployment is at a record high and inflation unexpectedly dropped in September, casting doubts over the region's economic recovery.

Germany's DAX added 0.3 percent to 9,031.98 and France's CAC-40 rose 0.4 percent to 4,290.90. Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.5 percent to 6,764.93.

Futures pointed to gains on Wall Street with S&P 500 and Dow futures both up 0.2 percent.

In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng eased 0.3 percent to 23,189.62 and China's Shanghai Composite was flat at 2,149.63. Japan and India's stock markets were closed for public holidays.

Seoul's Kospi lost 0.7 percent to 2,025.17 and markets in Taiwan, Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia also fell. Thailand's benchmark tumbled 2.4 percent after protesters flooded the streets of the capital, Bangkok, to oppose an amnesty bill they say is designed to bring back Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted as premier in a 2006 coup.

The Federal Reserve last week said it would maintain its $85 billion monthly bond purchasing scheme but it didn't express concern, as it did in September, that higher mortgage rates could hold back hiring and economic growth. Some analysts said that suggests reduction of its stimulus, known in the markets as tapering, could begin early next year. Such worries overshadowed news of faster growth in manufacturing in the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies, in October.

Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia, said Federal Reserve official James Bullard's speech Friday didn't rule out tapering and emphasized that any decision would be "data dependent," especially on progress in reducing unemployment.

The U.S. is due to release its October employment report on Friday, which is likely to show weaker hiring due to the impact of the government shutdown, he said.

Asian markets "have taken a dive today, although not significantly," Weston said. "The statement coming out from Bullard was a bit too pessimistic for market liking."

The U.S. central bank's cheap money policy is aimed at supporting economic recovery and has also underpinned stock markets worldwide for several years.

Benchmark U.S. crude for December was up 17 cents at $94.78 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $1.77 to close $94.61 on Friday.

In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.3507 from $1.3485. The dollar rose to 98.67 yen from 98.57 yen.

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