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Asia: Markets rise, eyes on China data


[HONG KONG] Asia markets were mostly on the front foot on Tuesday as speculation swirled that the European Central Bank will embark on a huge stimulus programme, while China prepared to unveil economic growth data for 2014.

The euro retreated after a minor rally on Monday as traders also nervously awaited an election in Greece that some fear could lead to the country exiting the eurozone.

Tokyo shares jumped 1.02 per cent, Hong Kong added 0.25 per cent and Seoul put on 0.49 per cent but Sydney dipped 0.22 per cent. Shanghai rallied 1.10 per cent a day after slumping 7.7 per cent in Monday in response to an official crackdown on margin trading, while Hong Kong gained 0.25 per cent.

"There are plenty of things happening around to have people looking over their shoulders," Tony Farnham, a strategist at Paterson Securities in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.

"We've got Chinese data today, the ECB meeting on Thursday and the Greek elections over the weekend." ECB policymakers hold their much-anticipated meeting on Thursday and analysts broadly expect it to announce a bond-buying scheme aimed at kickstarting lending in the struggling eurozone.

Those expectations have hammered the euro, which last week fell below US$1.1500 for the first time in more than 11 years before recovering slightly.

On Tuesday it bought US$1.1578, compared with US$1.1630 in London, while it also fetched 136.80 yen against 136.69 yen. US markets were closed for a national holiday.

The dollar was worth 118.17 yen in Asia, against 117.53 yen in Europe.

On oil markets, West Texas Intermediate for February delivery was down US$1.09 at US$47.60 in mid-morning Asian trade, but Brent crude for March inched up one cent to US$48.85.

WTI, the US benchmark, shed US$1.06 Monday and Brent sank US$1.02 on reports of record daily output in Iraq, adding to worries about a global supply glut that have sent prices plunging more than 50 per cent since June.

Gold fetched US$1,274.80 an ounce, against US$1,275.51 late Monday.