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Asia: Stocks follow US gains, euro hurt on IMF walkout

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[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose Friday, tracking advances in New York, while the dollar edged up on a better-than-forecast US retail sales report.

But the euro struggled after the International Monetary Fund walked out of Greece's debt reform talks, saying Athens was not doing enough to find a compromise with its creditors.

Tokyo climbed 0.10 per cent, Hong Kong added 0.71 per cent, Shanghai gained 0.62 per cent, Seoul was 0.25 per cent higher and Sydney dipped 0.26 per cent.

US shares jumped for a second consecutive day Thursday after the Commerce Department said retail sales in May rose 1.2 per cent, better than the 1.1 per cent gain forecast by analysts.

The figures are the latest in a string of data showing the world's number one economy is back on the road to recovery after a wobbly few months at the start of the year caused by a severe winter.

The Dow gained 0.22 per cent, the S&P 500 added 0.17 per cent and the Nasdaq rose 0.11 per cent.

Forex traders pushed the dollar higher after the news, which will give the Federal Reserve more ammunition to hike interest rate from their record lows.

The dollar fetched 123.58 yen against 123.45 yen in New York late Thursday.

"After the 'deep freeze' figures from January to March, the thawing of consumer spending is another positive for the US economy and a further reason to believe in liftoff in the Fed funds rate," Evan Lucas, an IG markets strategist in Melbourne, wrote in a client note, according to Bloomberg News.

The euro edged lower after the IMF pulled out of the Greece's bailout talks, saying a deal was still far off after a five-month stalemate.

"There are still major differences between us in most key areas," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters in Washington. "There has been no progress in narrowing these differences recently. Thus we are well away from an agreement." The fund said its Greek talks team had returned to Washington from Brussels and that the "ball is very much in Greece's court right now", adding key disagreements were on pensions, taxes and financing Greece must reach a compromise with its creditors - the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank - before the end of the month to unlock much-needed cash to service its debts. Failure to do so will lead it to default and possibly exit the eurozone.

"The fact the IMF walked out of talks overnight and flew straight back to the States doesn't help sentiment or give you confidence a deal will be done by June 19. This will get messy," Mr Lucas said in the note.

The euro bought US$1.1250 and 138.90 yen against US$1.1260 and 139.00 yen in US trade.

Oil prices slipped after the International Energy Agency predicted a recent surge in global demand will end soon. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July fell 28 cents to US$60.49 while Brent crude for July eased 32 cents to US$64.79.

Gold fetched US$1,182.32 compared with US$1,179.55 late Thursday.

AFP