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Market Enthusiasm Over Fed Stimulus Fades

By PAMELA SAMPSON

BANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Asian stock markets stuttered Friday after a survey showed a sharp drop in Japanese business confidence and a lack of progress in U.S. budget negotiations intensified fears that the world's largest economy faces a new recession.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.4 percent to 9,706.50 after a Bank of Japan survey showed large Japanese manufacturers becoming more pessimistic about business conditions. The index in three months to December dropped from September's minus three to minus 12, much worse than expected.

The survey suggested than an economic recovery might come even later than the central bank is currently envisaging, said Yoshiro Sato of Credit Agricole CIB in a market commentary.

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.6 percent to 1,989.66. Benchmarks in Singapore and Taiwan also fell. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.3 percent to 22,519.7 and Australia's S&P/ASX added 0.1 percent to 4,588.90.

Among individual stocks, Japan's Fujitsu Ltd. surged 5.5 percent and Sharp Corp. jumped 5.2 percent.

Wall Street stocks slid Thursday after investors registered their dismay at an apparent lack of progress during budget talks in Washington between President Barack Obama and key Republican lawmakers.

A deal must be reached by the end of the year to avoid what has been dubbed the "fiscal cliff" â¿¿ hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts and tax increases that could plunge the world's largest economy back into recession.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.6 percent to 13,170.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.6 percent to 1,419.45. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.7 percent to 2,992.16.

The decline in stocks came despite the fourth straight weekly drop in applications for unemployment benefits. Applications fell 29,000 last week to 343,000, the second-lowest this year, the Labor Department reported.

Benchmark crude was up 36 cents to $86.25 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 88 cents to end at $85.89 per barrel in New York on Thursday.

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