Asian stocks mixed as dealers await U.S. House vote


HONG KONG — Investors remained cautious in Asian trade on Thursday, with most major indexes falling, despite the U.S. Senate giving its support to a new Wall Street bailout package. Markets were unmoved by the lawmakers’ decision agreeing to the revised deal as traders decided to await the outcome of another vote in the House of Representatives expected Friday. The House’s rejection of the original 700-billion-dollar plan on Monday sent world stock markets into a tailspin, a week after they had plummeted following the collapse of Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers. Tokyo shed 1.88 percent to end at a three-year low, while Sydney eased by 0.7 percent and Taipei dropped more than one percent. Seoul slipped 1.39 percent. But Hong Kong recorded a rise of more than one percent, while Singapore was also better off, lifting 0.2 percent. Many markets were closed due to public holidays. The Senate voted 74-25 late Wednesday to back an amended bailout, aiming to ease the credit crunch that has shaken the world economy and brought the bankruptcy of Lehman as well as government intervention to save insurer AIG. U.S. President George W. Bush called on the House to vote before the end of the week to avoid further damage to the U.S. economy. “The American people expect and our economy demands that the House pass this good bill this week and send it to my desk,” he said in a statement. CMC Markets head of trading in Australia James Foulsham said: “People are just hanging on the U.S. decision.

“We saw some news on that this morning, but until we get a firmer view one way or the other, I think people are going to stay out of the market because it’s too risky.” However, in Japan the Nikkei ended at its lowest level since May 2005 as traders were also jittery about the prospects for the rest of the economy. Exporters were hammered, dragging the index, as the U.S. dollar slipped, making it more expensive to buy Japanese goods. “Even if the bill passes the House, the stock market will probably fall further on concerns about the real economy,” Hiroyuki Fukunaga, chief executive officer at Investrust, told Dow Jones Newswires. In a bid to keep liquidity the central bank pumped the market with 1.6 trillion yen (US$15 billion), the 12th straight business day it has done so. But Hong Kong was up due to a strong rally in Ping An Insurance, which ended a plan to buy half the asset management arm of troubled European bank Fortis, dealers said.