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Asia: Markets mostly higher after Wall St record


[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose Friday, following a record lead from Wall Street, while the euro continued to defy mounting fears Greece would default after the latest talks on its debt reform collapsed.

The yen was flat as investors awaited the conclusion of the Bank of Japan's latest policy meeting, which is being watched for a handle on the state of the country's economy and its stimulus plans.

Tokyo added 0.81 per cent by the break, Hong Kong advanced 0.72 per cent, Sydney surged 1.29 per cent, Seoul gained 0.51 per cent. However, liquidity woes and profit-taking sent Shanghai tumbling 1.99 per cent.

Wall Street's three main indexes rallied, with analysts attributing the gains mostly to the Federal Reserve's policy announcement and pledge Wednesday from chair Janet Yellen that it will only gradually raise interest rates.

The comments eased worries about a sharp rise in borrowing rates in the world's top economy and key driver of global growth.

The Nasdaq jumped 1.34 per cent to a record high, while the Dow added 1.00 per cent and the S&P 500 gained 0.99 per cent.

Investors brushed off increasing worries about Greece's future in the eurozone after talks between the bloc's Eurogroup of finance ministers fell apart Thursday.

The meeting in Luxembourg aimed at breaking the five-month-old standoff was the latest failure to reach a compromise and leaves Athens with less than two weeks to unlock billions of euros in bailout funds to service its debts.

With Greece unwilling to agree to some austerity terms and creditors also not backing down, the country could end up defaulting, which could then lead to it leaving the eurozone.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis warned "an accident" in the bitter dispute was drawing "dangerously close", while International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said progress required "adults in the room" in an apparent swipe at Athens officials.

But Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijssebloem told a news conference: "It is still possible to find an agreement and extend the current programme before the end of the month but the ball is clearly in the Greek court to seize that last opportunity." Despite the troubles the euro maintained its strength. It bought US$1.1379 compared with US$1.1371 in New York, where it at one point hit a one-month high of US$1.1436. The single currency was also at 139.87 yen on Friday against 139.78 yen in New York.

The dollar fetched 122.91 yen compared with 122.93 yen in US trade.

Eric Viloria, currency strategist for Wells Fargo Securities, said the euro gains came on reports suggesting Greece had obtained a delay in debt payments, but they were quickly pared when it became evident that was not the case.

The fact the euro did not lose all of its advances after the Eurogroup failure showed the market had not expected a deal, he said.

Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial, said he was "a little surprised" at the market's response but added: "Maybe we fully priced in Greece leaving the euro." On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July delivery was down 11 cents in mid-morning trade to US$60.34 while Brent crude for August was 16 cents lower at US$64.10.

Gold fetched US$1,201.65 compared with US$1,195.40 late Thursday.