BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets headed lower Tuesday as investors turned cautious before U.S. earnings season kicks off this week.
Investors will get a feel for corporate America's outlook as earnings reports start coming. Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. will unofficially launch the reporting season for the fourth quarter of 2012 on Tuesday after U.S. markets close.
Events during the quarter such as Superstorm Sandy, the presidential election, and worries about the narrowly avoided "fiscal cliff" could lead to some unexpected results. Japan's Nikkei 225 index tumbled 1.1 percent to 10,477.14 as the yen crept upward against the U.S. dollar. The rebound in the yen led some investors to sell export shares that had surged as the currency weakened in recent weeks. Toyota Motor Corp. fell 2.3 percent while Mazda Motor Corp. plunged 5 percent. Nintendo Co. shed 3 percent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.5 percent to 23,223.12. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.6 percent to 1,999.92. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand fell, while Indonesia and the Philippines rose. Mainland Chinese shares were mixed.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 percent to 4,690.80. That came as the government announced the country's trade deficit widened in November and a report by the Australian Industry Group and the Housing Industry Association showed the country's construction industry slowing for the 31st consecutive month.
"Investors are taking a wait-and-see attitude," said Evan Lucas, strategist at IG Markets in Melbourne, adding that many investors went for profits ahead of the release Wednesday of weekly jobless claims in the U.S. and the European Central Bank's rate-setting meeting Thursday.
"A lot of eyes are watching what will happen in Europe and America over the next couple of days," he said. Another closely watched development will be the Bank of England's monthly announcement on its key interest rate, due Thursday.
Major indexes surged last week after U.S. lawmakers passed a bill to avoid a combination of government spending cuts and tax increases that have come to be known as the fiscal cliff. The deal, however, remains incomplete. Politicians will face another deadline in two months to agree on more spending cuts.
"The looming budget battle in the US has also prompted some hesitancy to buy risk assets," said analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong. Stocks in the U.S. closed down Monday from the five-year high it reached last week as investors shifted their focus to corporate profits. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.4 percent to 13,384.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.3 percent to 1,461.89. The Nasdaq composite index fell less than 0.1 percent to 3,098.81.
Benchmark crude oil contract for February delivery was up 1 cent to $93.20 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 10 cents to close at $93.19 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3122 from $1.3112 in New York late Monday. The dollar fell to 87.44 yen from 87.84 yen.
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