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Asia: Markets mostly higher, eyes on Greek referendum


[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose Wednesday as investors shrugged off Greece's default, with Tokyo lifted by an upbeat survey on business confidence, but Shanghai tumbled at the open after the previous day's surge.

The euro edged down against the dollar after Athens failed to service its debt to the International Monetary Fund, and analysts warned of continued uncertainty, even after Greeks vote in a weekend referendum, which is effectively a poll on eurozone membership.

Tokyo rose 0.22 per cent, Sydney added 0.47 per cent and Seoul was 0.20 per cent higher.

Shanghai fell more than two percent at the open before recovering to sit 0.89 percent lower at mid-morning. The index ended more than five percent higher Tuesday, at the end of a day of wild volatility that at one point saw it down five percent.

Hong Kong and Bangkok are closed for public holidays.

As expected, Greece defaulted on its 1.5-billion-euro (S$2.3-billion) IMF loan Tuesday after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras shocked creditors and broke off bailout reform talks at the weekend, calling called a July 5 plebiscite on creditors' proposals.

The deadline to pay came and went after European leaders rejected a last-minute compromise from Tsipras, meaning five months of fraught talks had failed, making Greece the only developed country ever to default with the IMF.

The Fund froze its loan programme to the government, while European Commission-European Central Bank liquidity assistance also expired on Tuesday.

Failure to make the payment "is not really the issue now, the bigger question is what response the ECB takes to the missed payment with respect to the provision of Emergency Liquidity Assistance," Philip Borkin, a senior economist in Auckland at ANZ Bank New Zealand Ltd, wrote in a client note Wednesday.

"Even following this Sunday's referendum, there may still be more questions than answers, and so this heightened level of uncertainty could be part of the market backdrop for a while yet," he said.

On currency markets the euro was mixed but managed to keep from plunging.

It bought US$1.1139 and 136.51 yen Wednesday in Tokyo, against US$1.1139 and 136.38 yen in New York.

"Any possibility that eurozone membership becomes fluid is a negative for the euro, but the market is not yet so concerned with it until other larger countries look like they will be on the same path," said Ilya Feygin, a New York-based managing director and senior strategist at WallachBeth Capital LLC.

The dollar was at 122.42 yen compared with 122.44 yen.

Japan's Nikkei index ticked higher after the central bank's closely-watched Tankan survey of business confidence improved in the April-June quarter from the previous two quarters, beating expectations.

Economists said the gain came on the back of a lower yen and a rise in domestic demand.

In China, Shanghai's benchmark index slipped after a survey of manufacturing activity showed marginal growth in June but missed forecasts as the world's number two economy struggles to get back up to speed.

However, stock market losses were muted compared with the past two weeks' extreme volatility, which has seen losses of more than 20 per cent fuelled by profit-taking and dealers calling in margin trades - when they borrow cash to invest.

On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery was unchanged at US$59.47 a barrel and Brent crude for August dipped 46 cents to US$63.13 in morning Asian trade.

Gold fetched US$1,173.71 compared with US$1,173.87 late Tuesday.