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TOKYO (AP) - Asian stocks were mostly down in early Monday trading, though only slightly, as jittery investors watched the U.S. government near a shutdown.

Tokyo players were also awaiting a decision expected Tuesday, by the Japanese government on raising the consumption tax, said Katsuyuki Hasegawa, chief market economist at Mizuho Research Institute in Tokyo.

The benchmark Nikkei for the Tokyo Stock Exchange lost 1.9 percent in the first hour of trading to 14,480.34. South Korea's Kospi inched down 0.6 percent to 1,999.85, while the Hang Seng index crept up 0.35 percent to 23,207.

Hasegawa said the Nikkei would likely be hurt if Washington shuts down and sets off a plunge on Wall Street.

But he said a tax rise in Japan, which usually is negative for stocks, could prove a plus by signifying Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's determination to forge ahead with structural reforms.

"And so now the Tokyo markets are quiet and a wait-and-see attitude is prevailing," said Hasegawa.

U.S. stocks ended with a decline last week, falling Friday for the sixth day out of the last seven as nervous investors fretted about whether the U.S. government could shut down unless Congress agrees to a new spending bill.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 70.06 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 15,258.24. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.92 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,691.75. The Nasdaq composite was down 5.83 points, or 0.15 percent, at 3,781.59.

Adding to the indecisiveness are mixed signals about the American economy. A government report last week showed incomes and consumer spending grew only slightly last month, raising questions about a recovery.

In currencies, the dollar was trading at 97.81 yen, down from 98.31 yen late Friday. The euro was little changed at $1.3495 from $1.3543.

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at www.twitter.com/yurikageyama


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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