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Hopes for Greek deal boost Asian shares, euro

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Asia maintained a global stocks rally Wednesday while the euro held on to healthy gains as hopes grow that Greece will be able to hammer out a debt deal with its European partners.

[HONG KONG] Asia maintained a global stocks rally Wednesday while the euro held on to healthy gains as hopes grow that Greece will be able to hammer out a debt deal with its European partners.

Traders followed the lead from across Europe and the United States after Greece's new leadership impressed with their charm offensive aimed at getting backing for a renegotiation of its bailout.

Oil prices retreated after surging to their highest levels since early January on news of a cut in the number of rigs drilling and energy giants slashing budgets.

Tokyo jumped 2.17 per cent by the break, Hong Kong added 0.80 per cent, Sydney gained 1.07 per cent, Seoul was up 0.79 per cent and Shanghai was 0.21 per cent higher.

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Anti-austerity Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis have been touring European countries ramping up support for their plan to restructure their debt repayments.

Varoufakis is pushing the idea of debt swaps that would avoid the need for creditors to accept losses on the country's 315-billion-euro (US$361-billion) foreign debt, while easing the monthly financing burden on Athens.

While being given sympathetic ear so far the leadership's toughest test will come later this week when it must convince European paymaster Germany of its plans.

However, reassurances by Varoufakis and Tsipras to creditors and allies that a default - and possible Greek exit from the single currency area - is not on the cards boosted markets, with Athens surging more than 11 per cent.

There were also healthy gains in London, Paris and Frankfurt, which ended at a record high, while in New York the Dow climbed 1.76 per cent, the S&P 500 put on 1.44 per cent higher and the Nasdaq gained.

The surge in confidence filtered through to currency markets, where the euro rocketed one point to as high as US$1.1512 before settling back.

In early Tokyo trade the single currency bought US$1.1456 and 134.81 yen, compared with US$1.1479 and 134.96 yen late in New York but sharply up from the US$1.13 and 132 yen levels seen in Tokyo earlier Tuesday.

The dollar was at 117.65 yen early Wednesday compared with 117.57 yen in US trade.

Oil prices retreated after shooting up over the past few days on hopes of rebounding global energy demand and reduced crude production.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery fell US$1.06 to US$51.99 while Brent crude for March eased 68 cents to US$57.23.

Earlier Tuesday Brent had struck US$57.23 and WTI touched US$51.56.

"With oil having rallied for four days and reached a one-month high, there's a growing sense that it has bottomed out," Hiroichi Nishi, an equities manager at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc in Tokyo, said by phone. "Chances today are quite high for a rebound." Gold fetched US$1,281.71 an ounce, against US$1,281.71 on Tuesday.

AFP

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