Asian shares slip on fiscal cliff fears

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Hong Kong - Asian markets fell on Wednesday, following losses on Wall Street, as traders fret US lawmakers will not agree a deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

Forex dealers also ran for cover after the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said “little progress” had been made in cross-party talks on the looming tax hikes and spending cuts due to come in on January 1 that would tip the US into recession.

Tokyo slumped 1.22 percent, or 114.95 points, to close at 9,308.35, Seoul ended 0.65 percent, or 12.42 points, lower at 1,912.78 while Sydney shed 0.21 percent, or 9.5 points, to finish at 4,447.3

In afternoon trade Hong Kong was down 0.84 percent while Shanghai was 0.96 percent lower.

Reid's comments raised the spectre of another long battle between Republicans and Democrats, similar to last year's row over raising the country's borrowing cap, which led to the United States losing its AAA credit rating.

“The difficulties with solving the US 'fiscal cliff' are coming to a head again and may present a good selling opportunity for investors,” said Kenichi Hirano, market analyst at Tachibana

Securities.

The news hit Wall Street shares. The Dow ended 0.69 percent lower, the S&P 500 lost 0.52 percent and the Nasdaq slid 0.30

percent.

The losses came despite data showing US consumer confidence rose in November to its highest level since February 2008, while a separate report said home prices rose in September, a fresh sign of recovery in the crucial housing market.

Also on Tuesday the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned that failure to reach a deal would likely see the world's number one economy fall back into recession, which would have a global knock-on effect.

And Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said a temporary fix with no clarity on tax and regulatory policy could have destructive effects.

Currency traders have also been spooked, with euro and dollar falling against the yen after enjoying a recent rally on hopes for a US deal, while the Greek bailout success had also been priced in.

The euro bought $1.2914 and 105.53 yen in Asian trade, compared with $1.2938 and 106.30 yen in New York late on Tuesday.

The dollar was at 81.78 yen against 82.16 yen.

The yen has seen selling pressure in recent weeks after the man expected to become prime minister after next month's election vowed to press for more aggressive monetary easing to lift the economy.

Focus has moved to Washington as Greece debt concerns abate after the country was eventually given long-frozen bailout cash on Tuesday.

After marathon talks in Brussels, the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund agreed to unlock 43.7 billion euros ($56 billion) in loans and on the need to grant significant debt relief for decades to come.

Greece must still meet a series of agreed conditions but “the decision will certainly reduce the uncertainty and strengthen confidence in Europe and in Greece,” said European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.

On oil markets New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery, was down eight cents to $87.10 a barrel in the afternoon, and Brent North Sea crude for January climbed 21

cents to $110.08 in volatile trade.

Gold was at $1,737.70 at 0620 GMT compared with $1,746.42 late on Tuesday. - Sapa-AFP


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