BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets treaded upward Tuesday, kept afloat by expectations that Japan's central bank will announce action to help the country break out of its economic slump. But trading was subdued as a massive storm crippled New York and much of the U.S. Northeast.
With much of New York's Financial District in a mandatory evacuation zone due to the storm, traders were focusing on the Bank of Japan, whose monetary policy committee was expected to announce steps to stimulate the economy following a meeting, possibly an expansion of its asset-purchase program.
Japan's economy has been hobbled by weakness in its turbocharged export sector, which has been hit hard by a slowdown in demand from recession-mired Europe and a persistently strong yen, which makes Japanese products more expensive for overseas buyers.
The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo rose 0.4 percent to 8,966.95. South Korea's Kospi index rose 0.4 percent to 1,899.51. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 percent to 4,484.60. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.5 percent to 21,407.74. Benchmarks in mainland China, Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan rose. New Zealand's fell.
Among individual stocks, Virgin Australia Holdings jumped 5.9 percent after announcing it had bought a 60 percent stake in domestic rival Tiger Airways Australia and had made a takeover offer for regional carrier Skywest Airlines.
Japan's Sharp Corp. surged 5.6 percent after Kyodo news agency said the struggling electronics maker was in talks with Apple, Google and Microsoft to form a business alliance.
The New York Stock Exchange was shut down on Monday and will remain closed at least through Tuesday as a once-in-a-century storm barreled through the northeastern U.S. The last time trading was halted for two consecutive days because of weather was in 1888.
The uncertainty generated by the storm comes at the start of a big week in the United States. This is the last full week before the Nov. 6 presidential election and culminates Friday with the release of October's employment report, which many analysts think could have an impact on the vote.
In Asia, traders are also waiting for China's once-in-a-decade National Party Congress on Nov. 8, which will usher in a new crop of party leaders.
"Ahead of that, I don't see the market breaking out on the upside or downside," said Jackson Wong, vice president of Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.
Originally, the NYSE had planned to close just its exchange floor and allow traders to buy and sell stock electronically. Then it decided to shut down electronic trading, too. The NYSE said it was worried about putting staff that were needed to help run the electronic trading in danger.
Benchmark oil for December delivery fell 27 cents to $85.27 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The Nymex was closed Monday because of the storm and evacuation in New York, but electronic trading continued.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2899 from $1.2904 late Monday in New York. The dollar rose to 79.88 yen from 79.82 yen.
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