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World Stocks Flat Ahead of 'Fiscal Cliff' Deadline

By PAMELA SAMPSON

BANGKOK -- World stock markets were mostly flat in thin trading Monday, as hopes faded for a budget deal by the end of the year that would prevent the U.S. from reaching the "fiscal cliff."

Markets have been on edge as President Barack Obama and Republican leaders squabble over how to reduce the U.S. government's budget deficit. Neither house of Congress is expected to meet again until after Christmas.

It's not clear how the two sides might reach a deal before Jan. 1, when automatic government spending cuts and tax increases are set to kick in if no deal is in place. Those changes, worth hundreds of billions of dollars, threaten to throw the world's No. 1 economy back into recession.

Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent to 5,910.12. France's CAC-40 was marginally lower at 3,660.30. Wall Street was poised to open lower, with Dow Jones industrial futures down 0.5 percent to 13,075 and S&P 500 futures shedding 0.6 percent to 1,417.60.

In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng, which opened lower, swung into positive territory to post a 0.1 percent gain and close at 22,531.51 after a half-day of trading.

South Korea's Kospi rose less than 0.1 percent to 1,981.82. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent to 4,635.20, largely on the back of gains in resource shares.

Japanese and German markets were closed for a public holiday. Among stock markets that will close early Monday for Christmas Eve, include those in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

Among individual stocks, Cathay Pacific Airways rose 1.4 percent, days after flight attendants at the Hong Kong-based carrier settled a labor dispute. Australian mining contractor Macmahon Holdings plunged 4.3 percent.

Rising gold prices on Friday helped shares linked to the precious metal. Hong Kong-based Zijin Mining Group, China's largest gold miner, rose 2.4 percent. Australian gold miner Newcrest Mining gained 1 percent.

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