The Deal: European Markets Flat as Eyes Remain on Washington

LONDON ( The Deal) -- European eyes were still on Washington and the U.S. debt ceiling Tuesday, keeping the major markets fairly flat.

But in London there's been some optimism -- and some concern -- over a government mortgage guarantee scheme. It's supposed to help people who can't raise big deposits. It's going to mean the return of the 95% mortgages hardly seen since the credit crunch.

There's also been some improvement, but less than expected, in September's retail figures. Retail sector bellwether Marks & Spencer fell sharply in London after a downgrade by Bernstein Research.

Some cheer has come from Milan. A restructuring plan from Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena means it could repay its government loans by 2017. That has pushed the bank's shares up quite strongly this morning.

There's IPO news in London too. Stock Spirits, a vodka and brandy maker owned by U.S. private-equity firm Oaktree Capital, has set a pricing range for its upcoming float which could value the business at as much as 520 million pounds, or $836 million.

Parcel delivery service Royal Mail is expected to price Tuesday night at the top of its book-building range, which would give it an opening market capitalization well over $5 billion.

Asian markets were also constrained by uncertainty over the U.S. shutdown. But a strengthening of the dollar against the yen improved the outlook for Japanese exports. That helped the Nikkei, which closed somewhat higher. And Hong Kong and Shanghai were both up after the end of a week-long holiday in China. Retail sales were up strongly over the holiday and an HSBC/Markit survey signaled continued strength in China's services industries.

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