SENSEX NIFTY
Nov 07, 2012, 08.12 AM IST | Source: Reuters

Asian shares steady, counting starts in US election

Asian shares were steady on Wednesday as investors hoped for a decisive result in a close-fought US presidential election, with early counting underway and voting continuing in crucial swing states which will decide the outcome.

Asian shares steady, counting starts in US election

Asian shares were steady on Wednesday as investors hoped for a decisive result in a close-fought US presidential election, with early counting underway and voting continuing in crucial swing states which will decide the outcome.

Polls showed President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney remained in a neck-and-neck race, with 270 electoral college votes needed to win.

The first clues to who will win could come from the swing states of Virginia, Florida and Ohio. Polls in all three states close at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT) and if the results are clear, US television networks could begin projecting winners soon after.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent, pulled higher by Australian shares which rose 0.3 percent as an overnight rise in commodities boosted mining stocks. South Korean shares opening up 0.3 percent.

Japan's Nikkei average opened up 0.6 percent.

"The broad outline of the US election is expected during trading hours. If the uncertainty is dispelled with results pointing to a clear winner, the main board is expected to trace last night's Wall Street gains." Park Jung-sup, an analyst at Daishin Securities, said of Seoul shares.

The dollar was down 0.1 percent against the yen at 80.28, but off Tuesday's low of 79.96 yen.

The general market view is a Romney win would favor stocks due to the perception his policies are pro-business, while a second term under Obama would favour bonds as he is perceived to favour low interest rates.

Without a decisive win and a clear majority in Congress by either Obama or Romney, investors expect messy negotiations over a "fiscal cliff" - nearly USD 600 billion worth of spending cuts and tax increases that risk pushing the economy into deep recession.

A sharp downturn in the world's largest economy raises concerns about demand for industrial metals, analysts say.

They also say a win by Romney would hurt gold in the short term and overall risk sentiment, as he has been critical of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's aggressive quantitative easing, which has kept risk-favourable market sentiment and supported gold for the prospect of future inflationary pressure.

"An Obama re-election would be a 'status quo' and sigh of relief for those outside the US and the early rally started in North America will likely continue," said Neal Gilbert, market strategist at GFT in a note to clients. "If Romney is the early favourite, expect uncertainty and indecision to reign as risk markets take back many of their early gains."

"A close race could be devastating mainly because the market hates uncertainty and a flood of funds in to the safety of the USD would be the likely outcome, destroying the risk trade," he said.

If the election falls short of a clear result, it risks roiling financial markets as was the case in 2000 when Bush versus Gore battle ended up in the Supreme Court.

US crude futures fell 0.5 percent to USD 88.28 a barrel.

Aside from the US election, markets will eye Greece, as the parliament later on Wednesday votes on 13.5 billion euros of fresh spending cuts and tax hikes. The austerity measures are crucial to unlocking 31.5 billion euros in aid from global lenders to keep the debt-laden country afloat.

The euro eased 0.1 percent to USD 1.2804, near a two-month low around USD 1.2764 hit on Tuesday.

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