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Asia: Stocks mostly higher, Nikkei rises for 11th day


[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose Friday, with Japan's Nikkei up for an eleventh straight session as the yen sat near 12-year lows against the dollar, while Shanghai fell for a second day after a breakneck rally.

The euro edged up but continues to face downward pressure over concerns that Greece and its creditors will not reach an agreement on reforming its bailout, with the head of the IMF warning the crisis could end with the country leaving the eurozone.

Tokyo rose 0.11 per cent, Sydney added 1.45 per cent and Seoul gained 0.36 per cent.

Shanghai plunged four percent at one point, extending its painful losses after a 6.5 per cent fall on Thursday on concerns about tighter rules for margin trading. However, the index recovered slightly to sit 2.00 per cent lower, while Hong Kong dipped 0.36 per cent.

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Wall Street's three main markets ended lower Thursday, spooked by worries about Greece's long-running debt talks as well as China's heavy sell-off.

The Dow dipped 0.20 per cent, the S&P 500 shed 0.12 per cent and the Nasdaq lost 0.17 per cent.

However, Japanese traders brushed off the negative lead, with exporters pushed higher by the continuing weakness of the yen.

The Japanese currency has fallen about 3.5 per cent against the dollar this month as the US Federal Reserve prepares to hike interest rates at some point this year, while the Bank of Japan considers loosening monetary policy further.

The dollar was at 123.82 yen after touching 124.46 yen at one point in New York, the highest level since December 2002. However, it is still up from 123.70 yen in late Tokyo trade Thursday.

"The fact that the Fed has shown an intention to raise rates within the year has been behind the weakening of the yen," Juichi Wako, a senior strategist at Nomura Holdings Inc. in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

Data out of Japan Friday added to selling pressure on the yen. Official figures showed household spending fell for a 13th consecutive month, confounding expectations for a rise, while core inflation came in at a lacklustre 0.3 per cent.

The euro stood its ground in Tokyo trade, buying US$1.0963 and 135.58 yen from US$1.0947 and 135.70 yen in US trade.

However, investors are nervously watching events in Europe as Greece approaches a June 5 deadline to repay part of its debts, with no deal in sight on restructuring its bailout. Athens must find a compromise with its creditors that will unlock billions of dollars in cash to help it pay its bills.

The issue dominated a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers in Dresden Thursday, where International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said there was "a potential" for Greece to exit the eurozone.

While she told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that such a scenario would "probably not be an end to the euro", she added that it would not be "a walk in the park" for the bloc.

On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for July delivery rose 67 cents to US$58.35 while Brent crude for July gained 55 cents to US$63.13.

Gold fetched US$1,189.50 compared with US$1,187.32 late Thursday.