Asian Stocks Rise On Hopes Of Greek Debt Deal

Published January 24, 2012 3:27AM (EST)

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets mostly rose Tuesday, shrugging off tough negotiations between Greece and its creditors amid expectations a deal to cut the country's debt mountain will ultimately be reached.

Trading in the region was subdued due to Chinese New Year holidays. Markets in Hong Kong, mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam are closed Tuesday.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was up 0.4 percent at 8,798.25 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent to 4,237.20. Indonesia's benchmark climbed 0.7 percent to 4,014.37. New Zealand's index fell 0.5 percent to 3,278.00.

Hopes that Greece will reach a deal with private creditors on lowering its debt — despite a delay in talks between Athens and banks' representatives — supported European markets on Monday and sent the euro up to three-week highs above $1.30.

The deal being thrashed out would see private creditors swapping their old Greek bonds for ones with a 50 percent lower face value. The new bonds would also have much longer maturities, pushing repayments decades into the future, and a much lower interest rate than Greece would currently have to pay on the market.

Issues over the interest rates on the bonds lie behind the delay. However, the Greek government and representatives for the private creditors insist that the talks have not broken down and that they are moving closer to a final deal.

French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said a deal "seems to be emerging" after meeting with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble ahead of the eurozone finance ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday.

An agreement is necessary if Greece is to get the next batch of bailout cash that would prevent a devastating debt default. Greece does not have enough money to cover a euro14.5 billion ($18.7 billion) bond repayment in March. A deal would allow the country to receive a second bailout package from other European governments and the IMF, and cut Greece's debt from an estimated 160 percent of its annual economic output to 120 percent by 2020.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 index eked out a tiny gain while traders kept an eye on talks in Europe to cut Greece's crushing debt load and prevent a global financial crisis. Other indexes ended slightly lower.

Benchmark crude was up 1 cent at $99.59 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $1.25 to end Monday at $99.58 after Iran again threatened to block shipments of crude from the Persian Gulf. The latest threat followed a widely expected decision by the European Union to embargo imports of Iranian oil.

In currencies, the euro was down 0.2 percent at $1.2996 after jumping the day before. The dollar rose 0.1 percent to 77 yen.

By Salon Staff

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