Asia stocks ease up in quiet trade with cliff talks in focus

Shutterstock photo - - Asian stock markets eased up in thin pre-holiday trade on Monday, as investors continued to monitor negotiations among U.S. lawmakers to avoid the looming "fiscal cliff" crisis ahead of the year-end deadline.

During late Asian trade, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended up 0.2%, while Australia's ASX/200 Index settled 0.3% higher, as both markets traded in a holiday-shortened session ahead of a two-day break.

Financial markets in Japan remained closed for the Emperor's Birthday, with trading due to reopen on Tuesday.

Market remained focused on developments surrounding the fiscal cliff in the U.S., approximately USD600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect on January 1.

Doubts over whether a deal will be reached ahead of the year-end intensified last week after Republican lawmakers canceled a vote on fellow Republican House Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" fiscal cliff option, which called for tax increases only on Americans earning USD1 million or more per year.

The U.S. House has adjourned for the Christmas holiday, fueling speculation that policymakers will not be able to avert the fiscal cliff. Without a deal, the U.S. could fall back into recession and drag much of the world down with it.

Shares in Hong Kong swung between small gains and losses, as many investors stuck to the sidelines ahead of the two-day Christmas holiday. Trading is set to resume on Thursday.

Index heavyweight HSBC climbed 0.6%. Shares of Europe's largest lender command a 15% weighting on the Hong Kong benchmark, making it the single largest constituent on the index.

Elsewhere, in Australia, the benchmark ASX/200 Index edged up in a holiday-shortened session ahead of the Christmas holiday. Markets will remain closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, with trading set to resume on Thursday.

Shares in Billabong added 0.6%, as investors continued to monitor developments surrounding takeover talks for the surf-wear retailer.

In Europe, stocks were little changed after the open in holiday-thinned trade. Markets in Germany were to remain closed for Christmas Eve, while U.S. equity markets will close early at 13:30EST (18:30 GMT).

London's FTSE 100 eased up 0.1%, while France's CAC added 0.2%

Trading volumes are expected to remain light because many investors have closed books to lock in profit before the end of the year, reducing liquidity in the market and increasing the volatility. - offers an extensive set of professional tools for the Forex, Commodities, Futures and the Stock Market including real-time data streaming, a comprehensive economic calendar, as well as financial news and technical & fundamental analysis by in-house experts.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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