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World stocks mixed before US vote, China congress

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer

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

Asian stocks meandered while European stocks edged higher just hours before voting booths opened across the United States. The race between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is virtually tied, generating uncertainty that stock markets loathe.

European stocks rose in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent to 5,850.65. Germany's DAX was marginally higher at 7,329.82. France's CAC-40 added 0.1 percent to 3,452.93.

Wall Street was poised to eke out small gains. Dow futures were up 0.1 percent at 13,071 and S&P 500 futures added 0.1 percent to 1,413.90.

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 0.4 percent to close at 8,975.15. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.3 percent to 21,944.43. Benchmarks in Thailand and Singapore fell. Mainland Chinese shares also closed lower. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4 percent to 2,106 and the Shenzhen Composite Index shed 0.6 percent to 853.33.

South Korea's Kospi rose 1.1 percent to 1,928.17. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 4,484.80. Benchmarks in Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia 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 8.4 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 4.3 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.

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.

Benchmark crude for December delivery was down 7 cents to $85.58 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 $1.2772 from $1.2792. The dollar fell to 80.17 yen from 80.26 yen.