Asian markets mostly higher on Greek debt deal


TOKYO: Asian stocks broadly rose on Monday as investors cheered a tentative deal to extend Greece’s bailout, giving Athens a last-minute lifeline to pay its bills and avoid a damaging default.

Tokyo led the charge with the benchmark Nikkei adding to a 15-year high as it rose 0.73 percent, or 134.62 points, to finish at 18,466.92.

Sydney added 0.45 percent, or 26.46 points, to 5,908.0, and Seoul closed 0.35 percent, or 6.94 points, higher at 1,968.39.

Hong Kong crawled out of negative territory with the Hang Seng up 0.02 percent in late trade.

Exchanges in Taiwan and mainland China are closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Asian shares picked up on a strong lead from Wall Street which surged to fresh records Friday after Greece was granted a provisional four-month debt bailout extension, easing worries over its future in the eurozone.

European finance ministers gave Athens until Monday to present proposals that would convince its creditors to keep its loan lifeline open.

“Discussions over Greece have been tipping toward the EU compromising, so the market consensus is that the worst-case scenario will be avoided,” Shoji Hirakawa, chief equity strategist at Okasan Securities in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

“It’s difficult to maintain a short position.”

But Australia & New Zealand Banking Group warned that the bailout extension offered only a “small window of reprieve.”

“Continued geopolitical ructions with Russia over the Ukraine, as well as the unrest in the Middle East, means there are many issues that will continue to hold sway in political discussions, distracting politicians from economic policy,” it added.

The West sounded more forceful warnings over Ukraine’s battered truce Sunday as fighting raged around the port city of Mariupol and the warring sides wrangled over withdrawing heavy weapons.

Investors were also looking ahead to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s Congressional testimony starting from Tuesday as markets hunt for fresh clues on the timeline for a US interest rake hike, which is widely expected by mid-year.

In forex trading, the euro slipped to $1.1379 and 135.36 yen, from $1.1381 and 135.51 yen on Friday in New York where it got a boost from the conditional Greek debt deal.

The dollar weakened to 118.96 yen against 119.03 yen in US trade.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 0.86 percent to 18,140.44, notching its first record of 2015, while the broad-based S&P 500 rose 0.61 percent to 2,110.30, also a fresh record. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.63 percent.

Oil rebounded following a sharp decline last week, but analysts said prices remain weighed by oversupply.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for April delivery was up 15 cents to $50.96 while Brent crude for April gained 21 cents to $60.43 in Asian afternoon trading.

Gold fetched $1,203.76 an ounce from $1,209.13 on Friday.



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