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Asia: Markets mostly higher on Greek debt deal


[TOKYO] Asian stocks were mostly higher on Monday morning as investors cheered a last-minute deal to extend Greece's bailout by four months, giving Athens a lifeline to pay its bills and avoid a damaging default.

Tokyo led the charge with the benchmark Nikkei extending a 15-year high as it rose 0.81 per cent by the break, while Sydney was up 0.52 per cent, Wellington added 0.11 per cent, and Seoul climbed 0.41 per cent. Hong Kong fell 0.53 per cent.

Exchanges in Taiwan and mainland China are closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Asian shares picked up on a strong lead from Wall Street which bolted to fresh records Friday after the eurozone conditionally gave Greece the four-month debt bailout extension, easing worries over its future in the eurozone.

European finance ministers gave Athens until Monday to present proposals that would convince its creditors to grant the extension.

On Sunday, Athens was racing to finalise reform proposals required under the fresh agreement.

"Discussions over Greece have been tipping toward the EU compromising, so the market consensus is that the worst-case scenario will be avoided," Shoji Hirakawa, chief equity strategist at Okasan Securities, told Bloomberg News.

"It's difficult to maintain a short position." But Australia & New Zealand Banking Group warned that the bailout extension offered only a "small window of reprieve".

"The continued geopolitical ructions with Russia over the Ukraine, as well as the unrest in the Middle East means there are many issues that will continue to hold sway in political discussions, distracting politicians from economic policy," it added.

On currency markets, the euro was slightly higher at US$1.1387 and 135.55 yen, from US$1.1381 and 135.51 yen on Friday in New York where it got a boost from the conditional Greek debt deal.

The dollar barely budged at 119.04 yen against 119.03 yen in US trade.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 0.86 per cent to 18,140.44, notching its first record of 2015, while the broad-based S&P 500 rose 0.61 per cent to 2,110.30, also a fresh record. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.63 per cent.

Crude prices were mixed with US benchmark West Texas Intermediate slipping 25 cents from its Friday price to US$50.91 while Brent inched rose 16 cents to US$60.37.

Gold fetched US$1,202.67 an ounce against US$1,209.13 on Friday.