Asia Stocks Mostly Down As Greece Talks Drag On

Published February 21, 2012 3:00AM (EST)

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Tuesday as talks to prevent Greece from going belly up dragged on amid divisions over how to cut the country's debt further and impose even tighter control over its spending.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index was marginally lower at 9,478.05. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent to 21,375.06 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.6 percent to 2,012.72. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines also fell.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4 percent to 4,275. Key indexes in mainland China and New Zealand also rose.

A waning yen failed to perk up many of Japan's big exporters, whose profits increase when the home currency weakens. Panasonic Corp. lost 1.2 percent, Sharp Corp. fell 1.1 percent and Nintendo Co. fell 1 percent.

European leaders were meeting in Brussels overnight to hammer out a rescue package for Greece, which is teetering on the brink of a major debt default. The rescue money has been delayed because lenders want the country to do more cost-cutting first.

Greece urgently needs to secure the euro130 billion ($170 billion) package before it can move ahead with yet another deal to sharply reduce the amount of money Greece owes its private investors.

If no deal is reached, Greece will hurtle toward a default on its debts, starting on March 20 when a bond repayment is due.

In Australia, meanwhile, strong earnings reports helped set a positive tone. OneSteel, the country's second-biggest steel maker, jumped 13.3 percent after releasing a bullish forecast about growth from its mining interests.

U.S. markets were closed Monday for President's Day holiday. Traders will be looking for signs of economic recovery in the world's No. 1 economy on Wednesday, when the National Association of Realtors releases existing home sales for January.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was up $1.51 to $105.11 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The euro rose to $1.3209 from $1.3159 late Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 79.69 yen from 79.46 yen.

By Salon Staff

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