World stocks tentative

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Bullsandbears REUTERS A bull and a bear styrofoam figurine.

World stock markets made limited gains Monday amid a holiday in the US and nervousness over whether political leaders in Washington will be able to reach a deal on the government's debt limit.

Congress must agree to raise the limit on how much debt the US can have by the end of February otherwise the country risks default and could be slapped with damaging credit downgrades.

Even if the ceiling is raised, it would likely be at the cost of deep spending cuts demanded by Republicans in Washington.

“Markets remain optimistic, mainly because failure to forge a deal would be a disaster,” analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a report. “However, the more time that passes the more nervous markets should become.”

European stocks rose in early trading, while Asian markets were more restrained. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.7 percent to 6,177.18. Germany's DAX advanced 0.4 percent to 7,735.52 and France's CAC-40 gained 0.2 percent to 3,748.46.

US stock and bond markets are closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Dickie Wong, executive director of research at Kingston Securities in Hong Kong, said he was optimistic that an agreement on the US debt ceiling would be reached because of the high price tag attached to failing to do so.

“Both parties will find some kind of solution because they all know that the debt ceiling will have to be increased,” Wong said. “At the very last minute they will sort it out.”

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 1.5 percent to close at 10,747.74

as the yen gained some ground against the dollar and the Bank of Japan began a two-day policy meeting.

The central bank has been under pressure from Japan's new government to take more aggressive steps to fight the long deflationary slump in the world's third largest economy. Some analysts say they expect the bank to expand its asset-purchasing program and set an inflation target.

South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.1 percent to 1,986.86. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.1 percent to 23,590.91. Australia's S&P/ASX 200

rose 0.1 percent to 4,777.50.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.5

percent to 2,328.22 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index gained 0.7 percent to 942.50. Property, coal and cement shares were among the big gainers.

China Vanke, the country's biggest real estate developer by market value, hit the daily up-limit of 10 percent on the Shenzhen bourse after announcing plans to shift trading of its foreign-currency shares to Hong Kong.

Among stocks on the downturn were Japanese export shares, which shot up in recent sessions as the yen slid against other major currencies. Suzuki Motor Corp. fell 2.5 percent. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. shed 3.2 percent.

National Australia Bank rose 1.9 percent amid speculation that Spanish banking giant Santander was considering a bid for its UK business.

Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 23 cents to $95.33 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract rose 7 cents to finish at $95.56 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3314 from $1.3320 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 89.46 yen from 90.03 yen. - Sapa-AP


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