Asian markets point to mixed open as investors await US presidential debate

Asian markets point to mixed open as investors await US presidential debate
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(Sept 30): Asian shares were poised for a mixed opening ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate and ongoing stimulus talks in Washington.

Australian S&P/ASX 200 futures were down 0.94% in early trading, while Japan's Nikkei 225 futures were up 0.02%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index futures were up 0.72%.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 were up 0.04%.

The first debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, set to begin at 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT), is seen by some political analysts as Trump's best chance to upend a race where he has consistently lagged in opinion polls.

"Following the exuberant start to the week, a sober tone descended on risk markets ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate, with caution about the outlook prevailing," wrote Australia and New Zealand Banking Group in an analyst note.

Also looming over markets is lingering hopes the U.S. could adopt further economic stimulus. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a new, $2.2 trillion compromise relief bill in a bid to give new life to flagging negotiations with the White House.

There were optimistic signs Tuesday when U.S. consumer confidence saw its biggest rebound in 17 years.

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic was underlined later Tuesday, when Disney announced plans to lay off roughly 28,000 U.S. employees from its theme parks division.

Investors will also be looking at Wednesday's ADP National Employment report, a precursor to official U.S. employment figures out Friday. China is also set to publish fresh manufacturing data.

The Asian markets opened after U.S. equities fell slightly hours before, ending a three-day rally as investors held tight before the debate. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.48%, the S&P 500 lost 0.48%, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.29%.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.24% following broad declines in Europe and Asia. U.S. Treasury yields traded within a tight range as investors avoided large moves, settling down slightly.

The U.S. dollar was also down slightly in advance of the debate, hitting one-week lows against the euro and Swiss franc. The dollar index fell 0.3%.

Spot gold gained 0.9% to $1,896.96 per ounce, while U.S. gold futures settled up 1.1% at $1,903.20.

Oil prices were also down on caution ahead of the debate and looming coronavirus concerns. U.S. crude fell 4.01% to $38.97 per barrel and Brent was at $40.83, down 3.77% on the day.