Asian Stocks Muted As Greece Debt Talks Drag On

Published January 23, 2012 3:00AM (EST)

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stocks posted muted gains Monday in trade thinned by Chinese New Year holidays as talks on a debt agreement for Greece dragged on.

Only a handful of markets were open for business. Trading is closed in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was up 0.2 percent at 8,779.16 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.3 percent to 4,228.10. New Zealand's benchmark added 0.1 percent to 3,279.19.

On Friday, stocks in Europe mostly held their gains for the week, waiting for the outcome of Greece's negotiations with its creditors on a deal to cut the face value of up to euro200 billion ($258 billion) in debt by 50 percent.

Over the weekend, the representative of Greece's private creditors said the talks are continuing even after his unexpected departure from the country.

A deal in Athens would allow the country to receive a second bailout package from other European governments and the International Monetary Fund, and cut Greece's debt from an estimated 160 percent of its annual economic output to 120 percent by 2020.

That is still painfully high, but without the help, Greece will not be able to pay euro14.5 billion in debt due March 20. A Greek default would send borrowing costs higher across Europe and could trigger chaos in the global financial system.

On Wall Street on Friday the Dow rose 96.50 points to close at 12,720.48. The S&P 500 index inched up 0.88 to 1,315.38 and the Nasdaq gained 1.63 points to 2,786.70.

In energy trading, benchmark crude was down 41 cents at $97.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

By Salon Staff

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