Asia stocks mixed ahead of US vote, China congress

Asian stock markets mixed ahead of US presidential vote, China leadership congress

Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets were mixed Tuesday as traders refrained from major steps ahead of the U.S. presidential election and a leadership change in China.

The race between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is virtually tied hours before polls open in the U.S., generating a kind of uncertainty that stock markets loathe.

A key political event also takes place this week in China. Thursday marks the opening of the Communist Party congress — the once-in-a-decade forum used to name China's top leadership.

There isn't any mystery about China's next leader. Succession plans call for Vice President Xi Jinping to lead the party for the next decade. But markets will be closely watching the congress for hints on how the new leadership plans to tackle a stubborn economic slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy.

"Market participants will be distracted by today's US Presidential elections and Thursday's transfer of leadership in China," said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong in a market commentary.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.5 percent to 8,960.68. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.6 percent to 21,866.10. Benchmarks in mainland China and Singapore also fell.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.6 percent to 1,920.07. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 4,485. Benchmarks in New Zealand and the Philippines also rose.

Investors also were looking ahead to Friday, when China releases a slew of economic data, including retail sales, industrial production and the country's consumer and producer price indexes.

The Hong Kong market is pulling back ahead of the release of data that investors hope will show China's slowdown on the verge of a reversal, said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

"We are waiting for more evidence showing whether mainland China is bottoming out or not," he said.

Among individual stocks, Hong Kong-listed luggage maker Samsonite International fell 5.8 percent. The luggage maker reported net sales for the third-quarter rose 12.7 percent, excluding foreign currency effects, compared to a year earlier. But analysts at HSBC Global Research said sales were lower than expected.

Hyundai Motor Corp. rose 3.5 percent, recovering some of the ground lost Monday after the U.S. government said the South Korean carmaker exaggerated the fuel efficiency of hundreds of thousands of cars.

In Europe, renewed focus on Greece's economic problems combined with uncertainty over the U.S. election to push markets lower. Germany's benchmark index, the DAX, dropped 0.5 percent, and the CAC-40 in France fell 1.3 percent.

On Wednesday, Greek lawmakers will vote on a €13.5 billion ($17.3 billion) austerity package that is required by international creditors for Greece to receive its next installment of bailout funds. Without the cash, Athens faces bankruptcy.

There was only one major economic report in the U.S. on Monday, a measure of activity among so-called service companies, which employ about 90 percent of the American workforce. The Institute for Supply Management's services sector index showed growth in October, but at a slower pace than in September, and just short of what economists expected.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.2 percent to 13,112.44. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.2 percent to 1,417.26. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.6 percent to 2,999.66.

Benchmark crude for December delivery was down 2 cents to $85.63 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 79 cents to close at $85.65 on the Nymex on Monday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2786 from $1.2792. The dollar fell to 80.02 yen from 80.26 yen.

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