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AAP

2012-12-20

A roundup of trading on major world markets:

NEW YORK - Wall Street stocks fell as talks aimed at averting a fiscal cliff hit another snag in Washington.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 41 points at 13,310 heading into the final hour of trade.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down eight points at 1,439 and the Nasdaq composite index was down seven points at 3,048.

The White House threatened to veto House Speaker John Boehner's backup plan for averting automatic tax increases and government spending cuts that are set to take effect on January 1 if no deal is reached on cutting the government's budget deficit.

Boehner had proposed a "Plan B," separate from negotiations with the White House, that would extend decade-old tax cuts for everyone making less than $US1 million a year.

The S&P 500 index gained more than 2 percent over the previous two days in part because of optimism about a deal taking shape.

General Motors stock surged after the government announced plans to shed its ownership stake in the company.

GM said it would spend $US5.5 billion to buy 200 million shares of its own stock back from the US government.

The government pledged to sell its remaining 300 million shares on the open market and shed its entire ownership stake in 12 to 15 months. The government got GM stock as part of a 2009 bailout.

LONDON - Europe's main stock markets closed higher, with Paris' CAC 40 advancing 0.44 per cent to 3,664.59 points, its highest level for 2012.

London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies rose 0.43 per cent to 5,961.59 points, while Frankfurt's DAX 30 added 0.19 per cent to 7,668.50 points.

HONG KONG - Asian markets were boosted as US politicians look to be closing in on a deal to avert the fiscal cliff, while the euro added to gains in New York after Greece's debt rating was upgraded.

Tokyo shares surged 2.39 per cent, a third straight rally, to break 10,000 for the first time in eight months ahead of an expected Bank of Japan announcement on monetary policy.

The Nikkei in Japan ended up 237.39 points, to 10,160.40 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Hong Kong climbed 0.57 per cent, or 128.64 points, to 22,623.37, while Shanghai closed flat, dipping 0.22 points to 2,162.24.

Seoul was closed for presidential elections.

WELLINGTON - New Zealand shares rallied as investors cheered SkyCity Entertainment Group's Adelaide expansion and broadly stronger offshore equity markets lifted demand for companies including Fletcher Building and Telecom.

The NZX 50 Index rose 43.75 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 4,023.