World stocks muted ahead of meeting on Greece

Associated Press
Updated 11/26/2012 8:10 AM

BANGKOK -- Asian stock markets rose modestly Monday after the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season in the U.S. topped expectations. But trading in Europe was subdued hours before finance ministers gathered yet again to discuss what to do about Greece.

The ministers of the 17 countries that use the euro are scheduled to meet in Brussels to try to reach an agreement on conditions that Greece must meet before the next installment of its emergency bailout loan can be disbursed. Athens faces bankruptcy without the cash.

In early European trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent to 5,812.32. Germany's DAX was 0.1 percent down at 7,301.64. France's CAC-40 lost 0.3 percent to 3,519.75.

Wall Street, gearing up for its first full day of trading since last Wednesday, was set to fall. Dow Jones industrial futures lost 0.2 percent at 12,937 and S&P 500 futures shed 0.3 percent to 1,401.50. U.S. stocks rose on Friday after a half-day of trading.

Stocks in Asia fared better, posting some modest gains after what appeared to be a successful start to the traditional pre-Christmas U.S. shopping season.

Americans visited stores and websites in record numbers last Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday that is dubbed "Black Friday" because U.S. retailers traditionally turn a profit as millions of Americans rush out to stores in search of gifts for Christmas and other celebrations.

Surveys showed a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites between Thursday and Sunday, up 9.2 percent from the year before.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.2 percent to 9,388.94 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent to 4,424.20. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, India and the Philippines also rose.

But South Korea's Kospi shed 0.2 percent to 1,908.15. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was sapped of momentum by lethargic mainland Chinese markets. The index lost 0.3 percent to 21,857.77. The Shanghai Composite Index was down 0.5 percent to 2,017.46. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 1.4 percent to 789.49.

Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong, said traders were shying away from mainland stock markets due to the failure of Chinese authorities to remove companies that fail to earn profits after three years.

A regulation exists to allow for a delisting after three years, but it is not enforced, Lun said.

"If you cannot weed out the losers, the stock market will be inundated with companies not doing anything," he said. "The listed companies are out to grab money instead of earning a profit for shareholders."

Among individual stocks, Japanese vehicle makers posted solid gains. Toyota Motor Corp. rose 1.7 percent. Nissan Motor Co. added 2.3 percent. Yamaha Motor Co. gained 2.1 percent.

Australia's Sydney Airport rose 1.5 percent after announcing it has secured about $1.1 billion in new funds to repay existing debts and fund future spending.

Benchmark crude for January delivery was down 9 cents to $88.18 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 90 cents to finish at $88.28 per barrel on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2957 from $1.2971 late Friday in New York. The dollar fell to 82.01 yen from 82.40 yen. Earlier Monday, the dollar rose to 82.59 yen.

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