Asia stocks mixed ahead of US presidential vote
BANGKOK — Asian stock markets were mixed Tuesday as traders refrained from major steps ahead of the US 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 US, 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 8,966.13. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.7 percent to 21,860.86. Benchmarks in mainland China, Singapore and Taiwan also fell.
South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.2 percent to 1,912.96. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 4,484.70. Benchmarks in New Zealand and the Philippines also rose.
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 up 5 cents to $85.70 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 $1.2784 from $1.2792. The dollar fell to 80.23 yen from 80.26 yen.