Asia stocks mostly down, euro holds up as Greek talks plod

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HONG KONG: Most Asian markets fell on Thursday, with Shanghai plunging more than 5 percent at one point and Tokyo’s early gains whittled to almost nothing but the euro held its gains after Greece and its creditors met for key debt reform talks.

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The dollar edged up following a broadly upbeat round of reports on the US economy as investors look ahead to the release Friday of key US jobs data.

Shanghai slumped 5.2 percent at one point after a brokerage imposed restrictions on margin borrowing, limiting a crucial avenue of cash that has helped fuel a surge in mainland markets of the past year.

However, it clawed back the majority of those losses to sit 1.13 percent lower in the afternoon, while Hong Kong was down 0.91 percent. Sydney tumbled 1.42 percent to close 79.30 points lower at 5,504.30 to mark a fourth straight loss.

Tokyo was marginally higher, adding 14.68 points to 20,488.19 and Seoul edged up 0.47 percent, or 9.70 points, to 2,072.86.

US shares ended Wednesday on a high note after following figures showing solid growth in private-sector job hiring and a healthy outlook on the economy in the Federal Reserve’s latest update.

In its closely watched Beige Book, the Fed said the world’s number one economy returned to modest-to-moderate growth in April and May after stalling in the first three months of the year, partly because of severe winter weather.

On Wall Street the Dow added 0.36 percent, the S&P 500 rose 0.21 percent and the Nasdaq put on 0.45 percent.

In Japanese currency trade Thursday the dollar was at 124.35 yen compared with 124.23 yen in New York, and well up from 123.90 yen in Tokyo earlier Wednesday.

Equity buying was also supported by comments from European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, who said its new stimulus program of bond-purchasing had began to kick and there were no plans to end it early.

The ECB also projected eurozone inflation would reach 0.3 percent in 2015, up from its previous forecast of flat prices, while it kept its 2016 forecast at 1.5 percent and its 2017 forecast at 1.8 percent.

‘Very good meeting’
Data Tuesday showed inflation in the bloc rose in May for the first time in five months, fuelling hopes a recovery is taking shape.

The euro was at $1.1263 and 140.10 yen on Thursday compared with $1.1270 and 140.01 yen in US trade.

The single currency is holding up as investors track talks in Brussels between Greece and its creditors on overhauling its bailout ahead of a Friday deadline for it to repay some of its debt.

While a meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker ended late Wednesday without a breakthrough, they agreed to continue discussions that would unlock billions in much-needed cash for Greece.

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who also attended the four-hour talks, told reporters it was a “very good meeting.”

And the European Commission—the executive arm of the European Union and one of Greece’s three bailout monitors along with the IMF and ECB—said: “It was a good, constructive meeting. Progress was made in understanding each other’s positions on the basis of various proposals.”

There are fears that if Athens defaults on its debt obligations it could eventually leave the eurozone.

“It would be quite a surprise if they didn’t reach an agreement on Greece,” Keith Poore, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors in Wellington, told Bloomberg News. “There’s scope for equities to rise further.”

Oil prices were lower. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July delivery fell two cents to $59.62 while Brent eased five cents to $63.75 in afternoon trade.

Gold fetched $1,183.15 compared with $1,189.20 late Wednesday.

AFP

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