Asia: Stocks hit by Greek fears, China data spurs Shanghai

[HONG KONG] Asian markets slipped on Tuesday on renewed fears that Greece will default on its debt obligations, while Shanghai bucked the trend after China released data showing inflation at its lowest level in more than five years.

Investors took their cue from New York and Europe as the new anti-austerity government in Athens refused to back down on demands to renegotiate its bailout, putting on a collision course with its creditors.

Tokyo fell 0.64 per cent, Hong Kong gave up 0.19 per cent, Sydney fell 0.32 per cent, Seoul was 0.29 per cent lower and Shanghai gained 0.38 per cent.

Greece's newly elected far-left leaders have pledged to stick by their demands for a renegotiation of the country's stringent bailout demands, which they describe as "toxic".

Ahead of a European Union summit on Thursday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis are asking for bridging loans so they can come up with an austerity-free reform deal to run from September 1.

But European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned he did not expect any new deal to be reached at the meeting in Brussels, despite Mr Tsipras saying he was "optimistic that we can reach a compromise".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday pressed Greece to present a "sustainable" finance plan, as Athens' insistence sparked fresh fears of a euro exit.

On Wall Street the Dow fell 0.53 per cent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.42 per cent and the Nasdaq eased 0.39 per cent. Earlier, key markets in London, Frankfurt and Paris ended lower, while Athens ended down almost five per cent.

The euro managed to hold up, buying US$1.1330 and 134.23 yen, compared with US$1.1325 and 134.35 yen in New York The dollar was at 118.48 yen against 118.64 yen.

Shanghai advanced on hopes for more monetary easing after data showed inflation in China had tumbled to 0.8 per cent in January, well down from 1.5 per cent in December and the lowest since November 2009.

The figures, which come despite an interest rate cut in November, are the latest to highlight problems in the world's number two economy and raise the spectre of possible deflation.

Mainland traders are hoping they will spur more easing measures by Beijing.

"The rising deflation risks require further monetary policy easing," Liu Li-Gang and Zhou Hao at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group wrote in a note before the data, according to Bloomberg News.

"We believe this is just a beginning of an effective policy easing cycle."

Oil prices retreated after enjoying another day of strong gains Monday that came after the Opec cartel forecast non-Opec supply growth in 2015 would be lower than its previous estimate, and would be led by a cut in US output.

Prices had already been rising as the number of rigs drilling fell and energy firms cut investment.

On Tuesday, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery fell 53 cents to US$52.34, while Brent crude for March eased 57 cents to US$57.77.

However, the IEA said prices would only partially recover after their recent sharp falls of more than 50 per cent since June. Citing a major shakeup in the oil markets, it said in its five-year forecast that crude prices will climb to around US$73 per barrel by 2020.

Gold fetched US$1,242.18 an ounce, against US$1,242.23 on Monday.


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