Asia stocks fall ahead of tight US election

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A currency trader walks by near a screen showing foreign exchange rate at the foreign exchange dealing room of the Korea Exchange Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, on Oct. 10, 2012. AP FILE PHOTO

BANGKOK – Asian stock markets fell Monday as uncertainty about the outcome of the U.S. presidential election reduced appetite for riskier investments.

The race between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is virtually tied one day ahead of the election, generating an atmosphere of uncertainty that markets normally dislike.

Investors could awaken Wednesday without a clear winner. If the election comes down to a thin margin in a swing state like Ohio, the outcome could be delayed for days or weeks.

“The worst case scenario for markets is for a prolonged period of uncertainty if the results produce no clear cut result,” said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.3 percent to 9,026.22. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.2 percent to 22,066.59. South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.4 percent to 1,910.62. Benchmarks in mainland China and Singapore also fell. The Philippines PSE rose 1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was flat at 4,461.30.

Meanwhile, shares of South Korea’s two largest carmakers plunged after the companies acknowledged overstating their gas mileage on hundreds of thousands of cars sold in the U.S. Hyundai Motor Co., the country’s largest carmaker, plummeted 6.7 percent and second-largest Kia Motors Corp. sank 7.1 percent.

Benchmark oil for December delivery was up 16 cents to $85.02 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.23, or 2.2 percent, to close Friday in New York at $84.86 a barrel — its lowest level since July 10.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 80.53 yen from 80.42 yen late Friday in New York. In currencies, the euro was unchanged at $1.2829.

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