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Japan Stock Futures Little Changed on Oil Gains, Europe Crisis

Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Japanese stock futures were little changed as lenders secured more cash from the European Central Bank than economists had expected while oil and commodities rose, making investors hesitant to take risks before a Christmas holiday. Australian equities fell.

American depositary receipts of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Japan’s biggest lender, fell 1.7 percent from the closing share price in Tokyo. Those of Canon Inc., the world’s No. 1 camera maker whose largest market is Europe, rose 0.2 percent. BHP Billiton Ltd., Australia’s biggest oil producer, lost 0.7 percent.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring in March closed at 8,455 in Chicago yesterday, compared with 8,440 in Osaka, Japan. They were bid in the pre-market at 8,450 in Osaka, at 8:05 a.m. local time. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.9 percent today. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index lost 0.2 percent in Wellington even after a report showed the nation’s economy expanded in the third quarter.

“The ECB doesn’t seem to have stepped up to the plate for bond buying, which I think is negative, but at least they are acting as a lender of last resort for banks,” said Shane Oliver, Sydney-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd., which has almost $100 billion under management. “As we are heading closer to a holiday period, volumes decline.”

European Banks

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed today. The index added 0.2 percent in New York yesterday after gains in energy and consumer shares helped the market recover from an early drop.

U.S. equities at first followed Europe’s shares lower as banks sought more funds from the ECB than economists predicted, reducing optimism that the debt crisis will be contained.

Crude oil for February delivery increased $1.43 to settle at $98.67 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Index of raw materials rose 0.7 percent yesterday.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 18 percent this year through yesterday, compared with a 1.1 percent drop by the S&P 500 and a 14 percent drop by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 12.7 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 12.6 times for the S&P 500 and 10.3 times for the Stoxx 600.

Chinese stocks traded in the U.S. fell, pulling the benchmark index down from a one-week high, on concern growth in the world’s second-largest economy may slow as the European debt crisis hurts its exports.

The Bloomberg China-US 55 Index of the most-traded Chinese equities fell 2 percent to 93.20 as of 1:06 p.m. New York time.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yoshiaki Nohara in Tokyo at ynohara1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Gentle at ngentle2@bloomberg.net

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