Asian stock markets are trading in negative territory on Monday, the last trading day of the year 2012, as concerns about the looming U.S. fiscal cliff weighed on investor sentiment.
Lawmakers in Washington worked throughout the weekend and have made some progress, but a final budget solution continues to elude them. More meetings are scheduled for Monday.
Unless an agreement is reached, about $600 billion in automatic tax increases and government spending cuts are due to go into effect at the end of the year.
The Australian market is trading lower with investors tracking a weak lead from Wall Street where stocks tumbled on Friday amid persisting worries about the fiscal cliff.
Shares from consumer discretionary, healthcare, information technology and utilities sections are trading weak. Financial, mining and energy stocks are trading mixed.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to 4,644.8, is currently trading at 4,655, down 16.3 points or 0.3 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 15.3 points or 0.3 percent at 4,670, off an early low of 4,659.5.
Perseus Mining is trading 3.2 percent down and SP Ausnet is down with a loss of 2.6 percent. APA Group shares are down nearly 2 percent.
PanAust, Lynas Corp., David Jones, Alumina (AWC), Harvey Norman Holdings, Regis Resources and Echo Entertainment are also trading notably lower.
Fairfax Media is up more than 5 percent following media reports John Singleton has taken a stake and is joining forces with his long-time friend Gina Rinehart to push for a "significant" say in the company.
Monadelphous Group, Qantas Airways and Investa Office Fund are up 1 to 1.4 percent.
On the economic front, private sector credit in Australia was up 3.5 percent on year in November, the Reserve Bank of Australia said Monday. That was shy of forecasts for a 3.7 percent increase after rising 2.8 percent in October. On month, private sector credit was flat versus forecasts for a gain of 0.2 percent after adding 0.1 percent in October.
Housing credit was up 0.4 percent on month following an increase of 0.4 percent over October. Over the year to November, housing credit rose 4.6 percent.
Other personal credit eased 0.2 percent on month after increasing 0.1 percent over October. Over the year to November, other personal credit fell 0.7 percent. Business credit dropped 0.6 percent on month after falling 0.3 percent over October. Over the year to November, business credit gained 2.4 percent.
Some of the markets in the region are closed on Monday for New Year's Eve, including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.
Among other markets in the region that are open for trading, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore are trading lower. Bucking the trend, the Chinese market is trading in positive terrain.
On Wall Street, stocks ended lower on Friday, as worries about the looming fiscal cliff continued to weigh on sentiment.
The major averages ended near their worst levels of the day. The Dow plunged 158.2 points or 1.2 percent to 12,938.1, the Nasdaq declined 25.6 points or 0.9 percent to 2,960.3 and the S&P 500 slid 15.7 points or 1.1 percent to 1,402.4.
Major European markets too closed weak on Friday. While the French CAC 40 index tumbled by 1.5 percent, the German DAX index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index ended lower by 0.6 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.
U.S. crude oil ended slightly lower on Friday, with investors continuing to track last-ditch efforts by President Obama and Congressional leaders to resolve the U.S. budget crisis to avert a fiscal cliff which is due in few days time.
Crude for February delivery shed $0.07 or 0.08 percent to close at $90.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after scaling an intraday high of $91.49.
by RTT Staff Writer
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