Asian stocks flat as US data awaited

BANGKOK -- Asian stocks flattened out Wednesday as skittish investors waited for a key U.S. jobs report later in the week that will signal whether the world's largest economy is on the mend.

The U.S. Labor Department will release employment data for September on Friday. While the U.S. economy shows signs of resilience, thanks in part to rising car sales and home prices, hiring has remained too sluggish to reduce high unemployment, which is at 8.1 percent.

The U.S. economy also is at risk for falling off a "fiscal cliff" early next year. That's when tax increases and deep spending cuts take effect unless Congress reaches a budget deal. If those measures do take effect, the economy could fall into recession.

Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.5 percent 8,744.02 after a morning excursion into positive territory. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped marginally to 20,836.87 after opening higher.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.1 percent to 4,439, a day after the country's central bank cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter percentage point in response to global economic uncertainties. Earlier, the benchmark touched its high point for the year at 4,454.60 in morning trading before dropping back.

Markets in mainland China and South Korea were closed for public holidays.

Wall Street stalled Tuesday after Spain's prime minister said that he's not preparing a request for a bailout.

Traders have been anticipating for the past month that the Spanish government would ask for help. Spain needs to ask for money from Europe's bailout fund before the European Central Bank can start buying Spanish government bonds.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.2 percent to close at 13,482.36. The S&P 500 index rose less than 0.1 percent to close at 1,445.75. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.2 percent to 3,120.04.

Benchmark oil for November delivery was down 21 cents to $91.68 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 59 cents to finish at $91.89 on the Nymex on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2901 from $1.2917 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 78.21 yen from 78.13 yen.