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Jan 19, 1:58 AM EST

Asian shares subdued as US government shutdown threat looms


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AP Photo/Kin Cheung

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HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian stock markets were muted and the dollar fell on Friday following Wall Street's retreat as the threat of a U.S. federal government shutdown loomed on the weekend.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged 0.2 percent higher to 23,808.06 and South Korea's Kospi gained 0.2 percent to 2,520.26. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.1 percent to 32,100.97 while the Shanghai Composite in mainland China added 0.2 percent to 3,481.53. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.2 percent to 6,005.80. Shares were mixed in Southeast Asia and Taiwan's benchmark rose.

SHUTDOWN: U.S. politicians were scrambling to avert a possible federal government shutdown before a midnight Friday deadline. House lawmakers voted for a funding bill that would keep agency doors open and federal workers at their jobs until mid-February, but the measure faced uncertain prospects in the Senate. A shutdown could hurt consumer spending and rattle markets, though it's unlikely to cause widespread economic damage, Credit Suisse economists said in a note on Thursday.

TRADER TALK: "A predictable air of caution has engulfed global equity markets as we approach the final bell for U.S. budget showdown," said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA. "But in the bigger scheme of things this case of hiccups is likely to pass as quickly as it arrived."

GLOBAL OUTLOOK: Most Asian stock indexes were on track for weekly gains, with benchmarks such as the Hang Seng near record highs lifted by optimism about the global economy and corporate earnings. China reported full-year and fourth-quarter growth on Thursday that beat expectations, in a hopeful sign for the world's No. 2 economy. IBM posted its first quarter of revenue growth in more than five years, as adjusted quarterly profit exceeded Wall street forecasts.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks ended slightly lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.2 percent to 2,798.03. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.4 percent to 26,017.81. The Nasdaq was down less than 0.1 percent to 7,296.05.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 110.80 yen from 111.07 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro strengthened to $1.2261 from $1.2237.

ENERGY: Oil futures retreated. Benchmark U.S. crude lost 81 cents to $63.14 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dipped 2 cents to settle at $63.95 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, sank 71 cents to $68.60 a barrel.

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