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Asian stocks stall as Syria worries flare

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer

A man walks past an electronic stock indicator showing Japan's benchmark Nikkei Index gained 405.52 points, or 2.99 percent, to close at 13,978.44 for the day in Tokyo, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. Asian stock markets advanced Tuesday after the likelihood of an imminent U.S.-led attack against Syria faded and manufacturing rebounded in China and parts of Europe. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Renewed worries about possible U.S. military intervention in Syria caused Asian stock markets to stall Wednesday.

Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said the optimism brought about by better-than-expected U.S. manufacturing for August dissipated amid fears of a possible escalation in Syria's civil war following a chemical attack that killed scores of civilians. The U.S. government contends the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is responsible.

Analyst Gary Yau said in a commentary that "we expect no major shift in sentiment today despite a number of data scheduled for releases, as investors are set to stay cautious with one eye on the Syria development," ahead of this week's G-20 gathering of world leaders in Russia and U.S. employment data on Friday.

Japan's Nikkei 225 reversed early losses and rose 0.3 percent to 14,021.23. South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 percent to 1,937.13. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.5 percent to 5,169.90. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent to 22,358.52.

President Barack Obama has faced difficulty trying to amass support for U.S. military intervention in Syria, where an alleged chemical attack by government forces killed scores of civilians outside of Damascus. Britain's parliament voted against involvement, and Russia, a strong ally of Syria, has been sharply critical.

But Obama got a critical boost on Tuesday when a top U.S. lawmaker said he backed the U.S. president's call for a military strike. That intensified worries about the possible expansion of a conflict in an already volatile region of the world.

Still, the investment mood was held somewhat intact by an increase in corporate deal-making and growing confidence in the global economy. Verizon agreed Monday to buy out the remaining stake in its mobile phone business from Vodafone in a massive $130 billion deal and Microsoft announced Tuesday it would take over Nokia's smartphone business and a portfolio of patents and services.

TV maker TCL Multimedia Technology Holdings rose more than 11 percent in Hong Kong after announcing it was teaming up with Chinese Internet company Baidu to make a smart TV that will sell for 4,567 yuan ($746).

Big Chinese paper makers registered gains for a second day after the Chinese government indicated it was in favor of reforming the industry to reduce overcapacity. Nine Dragons Paper Holdings rose 4 percent.

"Investors are focusing on individual shares that have positive news on the corporate earnings side or maybe on industry policy," said Kwong Man Bun, chief operating officer at KGI Securities in Hong Kong.

Wall Street stocks rose modestly after a three-day holiday weekend and more upbeat economic indicators. A survey showed U.S. manufacturing grew at the fastest pace in more than two years in August as new orders rose.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.2 percent to close at 14,833.96. The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 0.4 percent to close at 1,639.77. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.6 percent to 3,612.61.

Benchmark crude for October delivery was down 22 cents to $108.32 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.15 to close at $107.65 on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3164 from $1.3169 late Tuesday. The dollar rose to 99.70 yen from 99.62 yen.


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