Asian Stock Markets Mixed Ahead of U.S. Election

Asian stock markets were mixed in cautious trade Tuesday after Wall Street's relatively flat finish ahead of the U.S. presidential election. Japan's market jumped after being closed for a holiday.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was up 0.2 percent after fluctuating through the day and South Korea's Kospi rose 2.2 percent, while benchmarks in Singapore and Shanghai fell.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index pared earlier losses to close slightly down after the country's central bank surprised the market by slashing interest rates by 0.75 of a percentage point — a quarter point more than most analysts expected — amid growing signs of a slowdown there.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 stock average surged 537.62 points, or 6.3 percent, at 9,114.60 as the market played catch up after being closed Monday, when most Asian bourses gained.

Weekend reports Panasonic Corp. may acquire rival Sanyo Electric Co. sent share prices of the Japanese electronics makers soaring. Sanyo's stock was untraded because of a rush of buy orders, and was at a bid-only 195 yen ($1.96) in morning trading, up more than 34 percent from 145 yen ($1.46) Friday. Panasonic shares jumped 6.8 percent to 1,614 yen (about $16).

The deal, if realized, would provide cash for Goldman Sachs Group Inc. of the U.S., which along with Japanese banks Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and Daiwa Securities SMBC invested 300 billion yen ($3 billion) in Sanyo in 2006.

Major auto companies like Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. also gained despite bleak U.S. sales data released overnight.

Elsewhere, trade was tepid as many investors showed a reluctance to place large bets before U.S. election results come out Wednesday morning in Asia.

Wall Street's mixed session, along with a weak reading on America's manufacturing sector overnight, prompted others to take some money off the able after Asian bourses posted strong gains in the past week.

"There isn't any major driver that should lift demand right now, and there's some precautionary profit taking," said Thomas Lam, the senior treasury economist at the United Overseas Bank in Singapore.

In New York overnight, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 5.18, or 0.06 percent, to 9,319.83 in its calmest session in some time, after rising as much as 86 and falling 70. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 2.45, or 0.25 percent, to 966.30, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 5.38, or 0.31 percent, to 1,726.33.

U.S. stock index futures were up a touch, suggesting Wall Street would open higher. Dow futures were up 24 points, or 0.3 percent, to 9,356, while S&P futures were up 2.8 points, or 0.3 percent, to 972.3.

In Australia, financial issues improved after the Reserve Bank of Australia slashed rates for the third time in as many months, taking the cash rate to 5.25 percent.

"International economic data have continued to point to significant weakness in the major industrial economies, and there have been further signs that China and other parts of the developing world are slowing as well," central bank Gov. Glenn Stevens said in a statement.

Bank shares also rose in Hong Kong as lending conditions eased further. Hong Kong's interbank lending rate, known as Hibor, for three-month loans fell to 2.79 from 3.08, and the territory's central bank injected $853 million Hong Kong dollars into the market Monday night.

In mainland China, the key Shanghai Composite Index fell through the psychologically important 1,700 level before rising again.

Oil prices were slightly lower, with light, sweet crude for December delivery down 39 cents to $63.56 a barrel in Asian trade on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $3.87 to settle at $63.91 overnight.

In currencies, the dollar was nearly flat at 99.05 from 99.03 late the previous day in New York. The euro was at $1.2636 from $1.2603 Monday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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