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Asia: Markets up on Greece hope, euro down on ECB easing


[HONG KONG] Asian markets rose for a third straight day on Wednesday, with Tokyo hitting a more than 18-year high, on confidence Greece will finally hammer out a bailout reform deal with its creditors, averting a default.

With expectations high that a last-minute agreement will be reached, the euro resumed its downward spiral against the dollar as traders turned their attention to a possible US rate hike and European monetary easing.

Tokyo climbed 0.56 per cent to its highest level since late 1996, Hong Kong added 0.23 per cent, Shanghai gained 0.61 per cent, Sydney put on 0.15 per cent and Seoul edged higher.

Global equity markets are on a run this week after Greece at the weekend submitted proposals for overhauling its bailout terms that were welcomed by its creditors.

Eurozone finance ministers will meet Wednesday to work on details of the new plan, before a full European Union summit is held a day after.

However, Greece's leaders - elected on an anti-austerity platform - cautioned they had to get any agreement through the country's parliament, with some members of the ruling party claiming red lines on some issues such as tax had been crossed.

Greece has to unlock billions of euros in aid before a June 30 deadline to repay an International Monetary Fund debt. It if fails it will default, with some warnings it could be ejected from the EU.

"The markets appear to have taken the view" that an agreement in Greece "is a foregone conclusion," Ric Spooner, chief market analyst in Sydney at CMC Markets, told Bloomberg News.

"Markets have now focused back on what they were focusing on prior to real concerns developing about Greece and that is the adjustment for the potential for higher interest rates."

On Wall Street, the Dow added 0.13 per cent, the S&P 500 nudged up 0.06 per cent and the Nasdaq put on 0.12 per cent to end at another record for a second day in a row.

And in Europe, Athens rose more than six percent, adding to a nine percent gain Monday.

There were also advances in Paris, Frankfurt, London, Lisbon, Rome and Madrid.

Confidence that a breakthrough is imminent has sent the euro lower as the European Central Bank embarks on its bond-buying stimulus programme while the Federal Reserve considers a rate hike this year.

The euro bought $1.1166 and 138.33 yen compared with US$1.1168 and 138.36 yen in New York and well down from US$1.1396 and 139.87 yen at the start of the week.

The dollar was at 123.88 yen against 123.89 yen.

"Markets are pretty content with the idea that Greece and its creditors will do a deal before the June 30 deadline" on repaying massive debts, said Emma Lawson, senior currency strategist at National Australia Bank.

Oil prices rose. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery gained 17 cents to US$61.18 while Brent crude for August gained 12 cents to US$64.57.

Gold fetched US$1,178.00 compared with US$1,183.00 late Monday.