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Asia: Stocks up after Greece deal, Yellen boosts dollar

Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 10:35
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[HONG KONG] Asian markets rose Thursday as Greek MPs voted in favour of an austerity-laden bailout package, while the dollar extended gains after Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen reaffirmed a US interest rate hike by year end.

Volatility returned to Shanghai and Hong Kong as better-than-expected growth data reduced the chances of fresh economy-boosting measures from Beijing, while there are fears a recent rout in mainland markets could resume.

Tokyo rose 0.42 per cent, Sydney added 0.82 per cent and Seoul was 0.17 per cent higher, while Singapore tacked on 0.50 per cent and Taipei gained 0.20 per cent.

Shanghai added 0.43 per cent and Hong Kong was up 0.10 per cent. The two had opened sharply lower in the first few minutes of trade.

Against a backdrop of violence outside parliament, lawmakers in Athens early Thursday voted in favour of the unpopular proposals - including reforming taxes, pensions and labour rules - putting it on the path to a eurozone rescue.

However, while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won the day, he suffered a major mutiny in his own party.

Now the agreement must go before the domestic parliaments of some of the other 19 members of the eurozone, with all eyes in particular on EU powerhouse Germany, which is set to vote on Friday.

Only after that can the tough talks to finalise the long-awaited deal, expected to take much of the summer, begin in earnest.

The news pushed the euro higher in early Asian trade, rising to US$1.0963 from US$1.0947 in New York and 135.88 yen from 135.51 yen. However, it soon retreated to US$1.0919 and 135.22 yen later in the morning.

The dollar also firmed to 123.89 yen from 123.79 yen.

The greenback was boosted by Ms Yellen's comments indicating a US rate hike is just around the corner.

In testimony to Congress, Ms Yellen stuck to the position of the Fed policy meeting that a hike would come "at some point this year" if "the economy evolves as we expect".

Her comments came as the Fed's closely watched Beige Book showed the world's number one economy grew in May and June, with all 12 of the bank's districts enjoying expansion.

Most analysts predict a rate rise from record lows either in September or December.

The Dow ended marginally lower, the S&P 500 lost 0.07 per cent and the Nasdaq shed 0.12 percent.

"Macro themes will not and cannot be removed from the headlines," Evan Lucas, a markets strategist in Melbourne at IG Ltd, wrote in an e-mail to clients.

"The fact the grey clouds that are China and Greece have cleared slightly only brings a sharper focus on the biggest macro cloud of 2015 - Fed lift off," he said, according to Bloomberg News.

In Shanghai, shares moved in and out of positive territory, with Wednesday's gross domestic product report unable to settle investors after a month-long plunge wiped 30 per cent off the composite index, amounting to trillions of dollars in valuations.

The sell-off came to an end last week after the government unveiled a series of strict rules to avert a crash.

Oil prices ticked up after sinking Wednesday on fears about the impact of more Iranian crude hitting markets after its landmark nuclear deal.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery rose 22 cents to US$51.63 and Brent crude for August advanced 39 cents to US$57.44 a barrel in morning Asian trade.

Gold fetched US$1,148.08 compared with US$1,154.88 late Wednesday.

AFP