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Asia: Markets climb on Greece hopes, Shanghai sinks again


[HONG KONG] Asian markets tracked global stocks higher Thursday on hopes for a deal to keep Greece in the eurozone as the country prepares for a crucial weekend referendum, but Shanghai tumbled again despite authorities relaxing trading rules to temper recent volatility.

Regional traders were broadly upbeat on the prospects for Greece despite Tuesday's default as the government offered fresh concessions to reach a compromise.

Buying was also supported by a healthy pick-up on Wall Street that came after another strong batch of US data suggesting the world's top economy is on the recovery path.

Tokyo rose 1.22 per cent, helped by a weaker yen, while Hong Kong gained 0.80 per cent, Sydney put on 0.70 per cent and Seoul added 0.34 per cent.

Shanghai sank 3.00 per cent, extending a more than five per cent plunge Wednesday as investors brushed off the latest measures to temper a sell-off that has put the index into bear territory.

While European leaders dismissed Wednesday an offer from Greece for a new bailout - which had been presented just before it defaulted - traders are confident the crisis will eventually be resolved.

Frustrated eurozone finance ministers agreed to wait until after Sunday's bailout referendum before holding any more talks, saying there were "no grounds" for further discussions.

The poll has been cast by Europe's leaders as effectively an in/out vote on the country's future on the euro.

"Markets seem to be of the opinion that post referendum, some agreement will be reached," Con Williams, an agricultural economist in Wellington at ANZ Bank New Zealand Ltd, wrote in a client note, according to Bloomberg News.

US and European shares advanced Wednesday. On Wall Street the Dow rose 0.79 per cent, the S&P 500 was up 0.69 per cent and the Nasdaq put on 0.53 per cent.

Paris, Frankfurt and Milan each advanced more than two percent, while Madrid and London clocked up more than one percent. Athens is closed until next week owing to capital controls imposed last weekend.

US investors were also on a high after a gauge of manufacturing activity came in June at its highest level in five months, while a survey of private job creation was at its strongest this year.

Focus is now on the release of non-farm payrolls later Thursday, which is expected to back up views that the economy is gaining strength.

The figures will also firm expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates, possibly in September, pushing the dollar up.

The dollar was at 123.37 yen, up from 123.15 yen in New York and much stronger than the 122.48 yen in Tokyo earlier Wednesday.

The euro fetched US$1.1045 and 136.26 yen, against US$1.1053 and 136.12 yen in New York.

Chinese markets continue to see sharp swings as they suffer a sharp correction after surging more than 150 per cent over the past year.

Both Shanghai and Shenzhen have since fallen by more than 20 per cent, a common definition of a bear market, with the losses largely attributed to fears stocks were overvalued, profit-taking and margin traders unwinding their positions.

After Wednesday's plunge the China Securities Regulatory Commission said it would ease rules on trading, while the two exchanges cut their fees by a third.

However, the move seems to have had little effect and Simon Male, head of Asian equities sales at Auerbach Grayson & Co in New York said it would not "be enough to stabilise the market, although given the importance of sentiment, anything that improves sentiment will be a short-term positive".

On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery was down one cent at US$56.95 a barrel and Brent rose 14 cents to US$62.15.

Gold fetched US$1,167.38 compared with US$1,172.54 late Wednesday.