TOKYO - British stocks and the pound fell Monday after a poll showed a narrow majority supporting Scottish independence for the first time ahead of a Sept. 18 referendum. Asian share markets meandered in holiday-thinned trading after Chinese import figures pointed to lackluster demand in the world's second-biggest economy.
The British pound dropped sank to $1.6169 from $1.6327 Friday after a YouGov poll showed rising support for Scottish independence. Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.4 percent at 6,829.67. France's CAC-40 slipped 0.1 percent to 4,483.97 while Germany's DAX was up 0.2 percent at 9,762.15. Futures augured muted trading on Wall Street. Dow and S&P 500 futures were both down 0.1 percent.
While most polls on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom still have a 'no' in front, "the market is now concerned that the gap between the two has closed significantly only a couple of weeks before the referendum," said IG strategist Stan Shamu in a market commentary. "A concern here is that the market is yet to price in the chaos that would stem from a yes vote on September 18, particularly the currency Scotland would use and how their debt would be treated."
Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.2 percent to 15,705.11 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.2 percent to 25,240.15. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.4 percent to 5,577. Stock benchmarks rose in Indonesia and the Philippines while Singapore fell. Markets in China, South Korea and Taiwan were closed for public holidays.
Exports from the world's No. 2 economy rose 9.4 percent in August from a year earlier but imports dropped 2.4 percent, indicating slack domestic demand. Some economists say additional stimulus is needed to prevent China's growth rate from waning after mini-stimulus measures helped it tick up to 7.5 percent in the second quarter.
China's Alibaba Group is seeking to raise up to $24.3 billion from its upcoming share sale, which would be the largest initial public offering ever. The e-commerce company and its early investors are hoping to sell up to 368 million shares for $60 to $66 apiece, according to a regulatory filing late Friday that sets the stage for Alibaba Group Ltd. to make its long-awaited debut on the New York Stock Exchange later this month.
The euro dropped to $1.2940 versus its Friday close of $1.2952. The U.S. dollar, which traded last week near six-year highs, was little changed at 105.13 yen compared with 105.10 yen on Friday.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil for October delivery was down 22 cents to $93.07 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $1.16, or 1.2 percent, to $93.29 a barrel in New York on Friday after falling $1.09 on Thursday as the Ukraine cease-fire eased supply fears.