BANGKOK (AP) -- World stock markets were mixed Thursday as investors assessed President Barack Obama's comments that reaching a budget compromise to prevent the U.S. economy from hurtling downward was "not that tough" and could even be done quickly.
Obama's remarks followed days of contentious negotiations between the White House and Congress on a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" of automatic spending cuts and tax increases at the start of next year. Without a deal, the U.S. could fall back into recession and drag much of the world down with it.
European stocks rose in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent to 5,905.51. Germany's DAX rose 0.7 percent to 7,508.05. France's CAC-40 gained 0.5 percent to 3,608.51. Stock futures in New York were flat. Dow Jones industrial futures were marginally higher at 13,029 while S&P 500 futures were little changed at 1,408.40.
Asian stock markets reflected trader uncertainties as talks continued among U.S. political leaders over the budget deficit.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.8 percent, in part buoyed by a weaker yen, to close at 9,545.16. That was its first closing above 9,500 since April.
South Korea's Kospi rose 0.1 percent to 1,949.62. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.1 percent to 22,249.81. Benchmarks in Indonesia, New Zealand and the Philippines rose while Taiwan and mainland China fell.
"A lot of these markets are close to year highs," said Andrew Sullivan, an independent analyst based in Hong Kong. "With only 12 trading days until Christmas, there's a lot of hesitation about pushing markets further. People are looking at various things and not having quite enough confidence to jump in."
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3 percent to 4,509.30 despite the government reporting a surprise drop in unemployment, dampening hopes for an interest rate cut by Reserve Bank of Australia at its February meeting.
Wall Street stocks ended mostly higher Wednesday after Obama was quoted telling business leaders in Washington that, despite a deep divide on critical issues, political leaders "can probably solve this in about a week, it's not that tough."
Obama is demanding that Republicans agree to raise tax rates for the richest Americans as part of a deal to rein in future deficits. Republican leaders say they will agree to higher revenue, but they want to close loopholes or reduce tax breaks rather than raise rates.
Chris Weston of IG Markets in Melbourne said in a market commentary that "there are distant signs that both parties should come to at least a short-term agreement. Certainly the market is seeing it that way and giving the situation the benefit of the doubt."
Among individual stocks, Japan's Yamaha Motor Corp. rose 4.2 percent. Sharp Corp. soared 9.9 percent. Kyodo News Agency, citing sources without identifying them, said the struggling electronics firm will start selling U.S. solar power company SunPower Corp.'s household solar panels to strengthen its own solar panel business.
Benchmark oil for January delivery was unchanged at $87.88 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 62 cents to finish at $87.88 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3067 from $1.3079 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 82.44 from 82.35 yen.
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