Asian stocks muted amid worries over possible damage to U.S. economy

BANGKOK – Asian stock markets Thursday withstood some of the gloom seeping into other financial markets as the partial shutdown of the U.S. government dragged on for a third day.

Some nonessential public services across the U.S. ground to a halt earlier this week after Congress failed to approve short-term funding for the government after the fiscal year ended Monday. Some 800,000 federal workers have been put on unpaid leave and many agencies and programs across the U.S. have been idled.

Analysts said investors in Asia were more or less expecting lawmakers from the two political parties to negotiate a solution or put the shaky U.S. economic recovery at risk.

“I think people believe the Republicans and Democrats will come to their senses sooner or later, so they should stop behaving like children,” said Francis Lun, chief economist at GE Oriental Financial Group in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1 per cent to 23,214.40. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.1 per cent to close at 14,157.25. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4 per cent to 5,234.90.

Benchmarks in India, Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand also rose. Singapore’s benchmark index fell. Markets in mainland China and South Korea were closed for public holidays.

European stocks presented a mixed picture. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2 per cent to 6,451.14. Germany’s DAX was down less than 0.1 per cent to 8,625.28. France’s CAC-40 lost 0.3 per cent to 4,147.13.

Stocks on Wall Street appeared on their way to losses, with Dow Jones industrial futures falling 0.2 per cent to 14,995. S&P 500 futures shed 0.2 per cent to 1,679.40.

European Central Bank head Mario Draghi said that the partial U.S. government shutdown was a risk to economic recoveries in the U.S. and globally. A shutdown of two weeks could shave 0.3 percentage point from U.S. fourth quarter growth, according to analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong.

“Moreover, the shutdown may interrupt some economic data releases,” Credit Agricole’s Michael Carey wrote in an email commentary.

The Labor Department will likely have to delay the release of its employment data for September, scheduled for Friday, “as they have reported that they will not collect data, issue reports, or respond to public inquiries during the shutdown,” Carey said.

Among individual stocks, ANA Holdings rose 2.3 per cent in Tokyo after the Japanese government said it will allot 11 new international departure and arrival slots to its carrier starting in March at Haneda airport, Kyodo News reported. That compares with new five slots to be given to Japan Airlines, which fell 1.9 per cent.

Forgame Holdings, an Internet video gaming company, soared 32 per cent on the first day of trading in Hong Kong after a successful IPO. Investors attracted by China’s rapidly growing online game market applied for more than 300 times the amount of stock sold in the company’s initial public offering.

After shrugging off the first day of the shutdown Tuesday, Wall Street made it clear on the second day that it was becoming more and more nervous that the budget fight could turn into something worse: a failure to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. That would be seen by financial markets as a disastrous move that could send the U.S. into recession.

The government will run out of money to pay its bills by Oct. 17. Congress must periodically raise the limit on government borrowing, but the once-routine matter has become the subject of bitter fights as politicians and the White House argue over how to reduce the country’s swelling budget deficit.

Benchmark oil for November delivery was down 43 cents to $103.67 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $2.06, or 2 per cent, to close at $104.10 a barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3609 from $1.3583 late Wednesday. The dollar rose to 97.80 yen from 97.36 yen.


AP Business Writer Kelvin Chan contributed from Hong Kong.

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