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Asia: Markets retreat as Greece talks stumble


[HONG KONG] Asian markets turned negative Thursday on concerns about Greece's debt reform after talks between the country's officials and creditors fell apart and its leader accused them of rejecting his proposals.

While both sides agreed to resume talks later in the day, there are fears they could fail to reach an agreement to unlock crucial bailout funds, leaving Athens in default and possibly crashing out of the eurozone.

Tokyo eased 0.10 per cent, Hong Kong lost 0.28 per cent, Shanghai slipped 0.11 per cent, Sydney fell 0.30 per cent and Seoul gave up 0.17 per cent.

Regional investors followed their colleagues in Europe and New York in selling after Athens and its creditors failed to achieve a breakthrough on overhauling Greece's bailout terms, just days before a June 30 deadline when it must make a debt repayment.

If deal is not hammered out and Athens does not unlock much-needed bailout cash, it will default and possibly crash out of the eurozone, or even the European Union.

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Global markets had been on a rally since Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras handed over Greek proposals at the start of the week, which were initially welcomed.

However, while some sources said the plans were 90 per cent finalised, the two sides have been unable to agree a complete overhaul, with tax and pensions a key sticking point, and Tsipras accused the other side of making fresh demands.

"This strange position maybe hides two things: either they do not want an agreement or they are serving specific interests in Greece," Mr Tsipras said as he went into the talks.

"I'm concerned selling will accelerate over the session as investors locally start to anticipate further pressure on European markets tonight," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

"What we're looking at now is a classic European fudge. There will be some temporary bridging to get through the IMF payment next Tuesday, and we then start anticipating the next major deadline." US shares retreated. The Dow sank 0.98 per cent, the S&P 500 fell 0.74 per cent and the Nasdaq slipped 0.73 per cent from a record high. News that the US economy did not shrink as much as first thought in the first quarter of the year was unable to prevent a sell-off.

And in Europe the benchmark indexes in Frankfurt, Paris, Athens Madrid and Milan retreated.

On currency markets the euro held up despite the growing unease. It fetched US$1.1205 and 138.81 yen against US$1.1208 and 138.86 yen in New York The dollar was changing hands at 123.85 yen compared with 123.89 yen.

"There's a sense Greek negotiations will extend through the end of the month and markets appear to believe there'll eventually be an accord," said Yasuhiro Kaizaki, vice president for global markets at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank in New York.

Oil prices were mixed after a US energy report showed crude reserves at near-record levels and domestic output was rising.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery fell seven cents to US$60.20 while Brent crude gained 13 cents to US$63.62.

Gold fetched US$1,175.88 compared with US$1,178.00 late Wednesday.


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