Nov 5, 2012

Asia - Asian markets mostly down ahead of US election

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HONG KONG: Asian markets ended mostly lower on Monday as better-than-expected US jobs figures were offset by caution ahead of this week's US presidential election and the start of China's leadership transition.

The dollar remained elevated against the yen and euro after Friday's employment numbers, but that was unable to support Japan's Nikkei, which also saw profit-taking after last week's healthy gains.

Tokyo fell 0.48 per cent, or 43.78 points, to 9,007.44, Seoul closed 0.55 per cent, or 10.5 points, lower at 1,908.22, but Sydney finished up 0.31 per cent, or 14.0 points, at 4,474.1.

Hong Kong fell 0.47 per cent, or 104.93 points, to 22,006.40 and Shanghai ended 0.14 per cent, or 3.02 points, lower at 2,114.03.

Traders were given a bright lead after the US Labor Department on Friday said that the economy created 171,000 jobs in October, far more than the expected 125,000.

And while the jobless rate rose to 7.9 per cent from 7.8 per cent, that was blamed on more people entering the market.

The encouraging report provided a final snapshot of a slowly improving economy as President Barack Obama battles for re-election on Tuesday in a tight race against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

US stocks jumped in early trade but ended in the red by the end of trade on Friday. The Dow finished down 1.05 per cent, the S&P 500 fell 0.94 per cent and the Nasdaq lost 1.26 per cent.

The jobs data also lifted the dollar, sending it to a six-month high of 80.68 yen in New York, before easing to end Friday at 80.47 yen.

In afternoon Asian trade, the greenback bought 80.30 yen.

The euro bought US$1.2790 and 102.70 yen, down from US$1.2835 and 103.30 yen.

Eyes are on the world's two biggest economies this week, with the US presidential election too close to call, while Beijing is expected to anoint its successor to President Hu Jintao.

"The US data (released Friday) were generally positive, but markets are apprehensive ahead of the hotly-contested US presidential vote" on Tuesday, said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities.

Oil prices were higher. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December, gained one cent to US$84.87 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for December delivery fell four cents to US$105.64.

Gold was at US$1,679.75 at 1050 GMT compared with US$1,708.90 late Friday.

In other markets, Taipei fell 0.35 per cent, or 25.11 points, to close at 7,185.36; Manila rose 0.61 per cent, or 33.31 points, to 5,457.82; Wellington lost 0.15 per cent, or 5.81 points, to end at 3,908.27; Jakarta fell 0.83 per cent, or 35.95 points, to 4,302.94; Kuala Lumpur closed 2.09 points lower, or 0.13 per cent, at 1,654.04; Bangkok edged up 0.01 per cent, or 0.10 points, to 1,306.70; and Mumbai ended flat, closing up 0.04 per cent, or 7.42 points, at 18,762.87.

- AFP/ms

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