Global Markets: Asian shares steady, US budget concerns weigh
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Asian shares steadied in quiet pre-holiday trade on Monday from a slump late last week, with prices capped by nervousness about the risk of the United States failing to avert a fiscal crisis.
European shares will likely be subdued, with financial spreadbetters predicting London's FTSE 100 and Paris's CAC-40 to open steady to 0.1 percent higher. Activity in other assets was also subdued, with spot gold steadying as investors took to the sidelines, while oil extended losses, with U.S. crude inching down 0.2 percent to remain below $89 a barrel while Brent futures eased 0.3 percent to $108.70.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent after falling to a near two-week low on Friday when House of Representatives Speak John Boehner failed to gain support for a tax plan, raising fears the U.S. may not be able to avert the "fiscal cliff" of automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to start Jan. 1. The White House on Friday tried to rescue stalled talks but there was little headway as lawmakers and President Barack Obama abandoned Washington for Christmas. Many market players still expect both sides to reach a compromise before the year- end deadline but heightening tensions were likely to stifle trade already slowed by the holidays.
"It's all about the U.S. fiscal cliff issue," said Victor Shum, managing director at his Purvin & Gertz. "The chances are that we will get a deal between the White House and the Republicans, but the fact that Boehner failed to get members to support his plan is worrying."
Australian shares advanced 0.25 percent in a shortened session before the Christmas break, lifted by blue chips, but trade was extremely thin with many players already away.
The Hang Seng Index closed up 0.2 percent, with Hong Kong financial markets shut at midday for the Christmas holiday and resuming trading on Thursday. Shanghai shares outperformed their peers with a 0.5 percent rise on expectations for more public funds' allocations.
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