BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets lost some steam Tuesday as efforts by U.S. leaders to reach a budget deal before the year's end appeared deadlocked and fears lingered that a leadership change in Italy could derail Europe's efforts to tackle its financial crisis.
Markets in Asia appeared to take in stride news that HSBC, the British banking giant, will pay $1.9 billion to settle a money-laundering probe by federal and state authorities in the United States. HSBC shares rose 0.3 percent in Hong Kong.
Jackson Wong, vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong, said investors were prepared for the bad news after rumors of a settlement leaked out Friday. Helping to calm nerves was HSBC's sale last Wednesday of its 15.6 percent stake in China's Ping An Insurance to a Thai conglomerate for about $9.4 billion.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell less than 0.1 percent to 9,529.48, with Japanese utilities coming under pressure a day after a team of geologists said that a nuclear power plant in western Japan is likely located on an active fault. Japanese guidelines prohibit nuclear facilities above active faults.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. fell 1.4 percent and Kansai Electric Power Co. shed 3.7 percent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent to 22,322.70 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent to 1,962.30. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4 percent to 4,576. Benchmarks in Singapore and Indonesia also rose while New Zealand, Taiwan and mainland China fell.
Investors also got a slight jolt after Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who has been credited with restoring confidence in Italy's economy, announced he will resign by year's end. Monti said over the weekend that he found it impossible to lead after former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party, Parliament's largest, dropped its support for the government.
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