Asian stock markets were mixed on Tuesday as traders refrained from major steps ahead of the U.S. Presidential election and a leadership change in China.

The race between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is virtually tied hours before polls open in the U.S., generating a kind of uncertainty that stock markets loathe.

A key political event also takes place this week in China. Thursday marks the opening of the Communist Party congress the once-in-a-decade forum used to name China’s top leadership.

There isn’t any mystery about China’s next leader. Succession plans call for Vice-resident Xi Jinping to lead the party for the next decade. But markets will be closely watching the Cngress for hints on how the new leadership plans to tackle a stubborn economic slowdown in the world’s No. 2 economy.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.5 per cent to 8,966.13. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.7 per cent to 21,860.86. Benchmarks in mainland China, Singapore and Taiwan also fell.

South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.2 per cent to 1,912.96. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.2 per cent to 4,484.70. Benchmarks in New Zealand and the Philippines also rose.

In Europe, renewed focus on Greece’s economic problems combined with uncertainty over the U.S. election to push markets lower. Germany’s benchmark index, the DAX, dropped 0.5 per cent, and the CAC-40 in France fell 1.3 per cent.

On Wednesday, Greek legislators will vote on a $17.3-billion austerity package that is required by international creditors for Greece to receive its next instalment of bailout funds. Without the cash, Athens faces bankruptcy.

There was only one major economic report in the U.S. on Monday, a measure of activity among so-called service companies, which employ about 90 per cent of the American workforce. The Institute for Supply Management’s services sector index showed growth in October, but at a slower pace than in September, and just short of what economists expected.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.2 per cent to 13,112.44. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.2 per cent to 1,417.26. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.6 per cent to 2,999.66.

Benchmark crude for December delivery was up 5 cents to $85.70 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 79 cents to close at $85.65 on the Nymex on Monday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2784 from $1.2792. The dollar fell to 80.23 yen from 80.26 yen.

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