Asia stocks hit by Greek fears, China data spurs Shanghai


HONG KONG: Asian markets slipped Tuesday on renewed fears Greece will default on its debt obligations, but Shanghai rallied on fresh easing hopes after Chinese data showed inflation at its lowest level in more than five years.

Investors took their cue from New York and Europe as the new anti-austerity government in Athens refused to back down on demands to renegotiate its bailout, putting it on a collision course with its creditors.

Tokyo slipped 0.33 percent, or 59.25 points, to 17,652.68, Seoul shed 0.57 percent, or 11.14 points, to 1,935.86 and Sydney eased 0.25 percent, or 14.36 points, to 5,800.57.

Hong Kong was flat, edging up 7.10 points to 24,528.10 while Shanghai surged 1.50 percent, or 46.47 points, to 3,141.59.

Greece’s newly elected far-left leaders have pledged to stick to their demands for a renegotiation of the country’s stringent bailout demands, which they describe as “toxic”.

Ahead of a European Union summit Thursday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis are asking for bridging loans so they can come up with an austerity-free reform deal to run from September 1.

But European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned he did not expect any new deal to be reached at the meeting in Brussels, despite Tsipras saying he was “optimistic that we can reach a compromise”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday pressed Greece to present a “sustainable” finance plan, as Athens’ insistence sparked fresh fears of a euro exit.

On Wall Street, the Dow fell 0.53 percent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.42 percent and the Nasdaq eased 0.39 percent. Earlier, key markets in London, Frankfurt and Paris ended lower, while Athens ended down almost five percent.

Bets on China easing

The euro managed to hold up, buying $1.1330 and 134.53 yen, compared with $1.1325 and 134.35 yen in New York

The dollar was at 118.74 yen against 118.64 yen.

Shanghai advanced on hopes for more monetary easing after data showed inflation in China had tumbled to 0.8 percent in January, well down from 1.5 percent in December and the lowest since November 2009.

The figures, which come despite an interest rate cut in November, are the latest to highlight problems in the world’s number two economy and raise the spectre of possible deflation.

Mainland traders are hoping they will spur more easing measures by Beijing.

“The rising deflation risks require further monetary policy easing,” Liu Li-Gang and Zhou Hao at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group wrote in a note before the data, according to Bloomberg News.

“We believe this is just a beginning of an effective policy easing cycle.”

Oil prices retreated after enjoying another day of strong gains Monday that came after the OPEC cartel forecast non-OPEC supply growth in 2015 would be lower than its previous estimate, and would be led by a cut in US output.

Prices had already been rising as the number of rigs drilling fell and energy firms cut investment.

On Tuesday, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery fell 56 cents to $52.30, while Brent crude for March eased 59 cents to $57.75.

However, the IEA said prices would only partially recover after their recent sharp falls of more than 50 percent since June. Citing a major shakeup in the oil markets, it said in its five-year forecast that crude prices will climb to around $73 per barrel by 2020.

Gold fetched $1,243.33 an ounce, against $1,242.23 on Monday.

In other markets:

— Taipei fell 0.30 percent, or 27.80 points, to 9,393.7.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.35 percent higher at Tw$142.5 while chip design house MediaTek fell by its 7.0 percent daily limit to Tw$454.0.

— Wellington rose 0.25 percent, or 14.52 points, to 5,784.09.

Spark was up 1.17 percent at NZ$3.47 and Trade Me gained 0.27 percent to NZ$3.70.

— Manila closed 0.76 percent lower, giving up 59.43 points to 7,723.14.

Universal Robina shed 3.21 percent to 216.80 pesos, Metro Pacific Investments fell 4.96 percent to 4.98 pesos, while Philippine Long Distance Telephone rose 0.13 percent to 3,102.00 pesos.



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