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Asia: Stocks mostly higher, weak yen boosts Tokyo


[HONG KONG] Asian markets mostly rose Tuesday, with Tokyo boosted by a weaker yen while dealers await the release of major earnings reports as well as key central bank policy meetings in the United States and Japan.

Hopes for a deal between Greece and its creditors over its bailout terms provided a measure of support to the euro after Athens reshuffled its negotiating team following months of fruitless talks.

Tokyo added 0.63 per cent and Shanghai put on 0.18 per cent, while Hong Kong put on 0.17 per cent and Seoul was flat. Sydney slipped 0.40 per cent.

The broad gains came despite losses on Wall Street, where profit-takers moved in after Friday's record closures for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 slipped 0.41 per cent and the Nasdaq fell 0.63 per cent, while the Dow eased 0.23 per cent.

Japan's Nikkei was the stand-out performer as the weaker yen helped exporters. The dollar bought 119.12 yen in Asian trade, up from 119.05 yen in New York.

However, the latest round of weak US data have almost put an end to talk of a mid-summer interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve. Traders are awaiting the end Wednesday of a two-day policy meeting by the Fed, hoping it will give a clue about its timetable for raising rates.

That will be followed by a meeting by the Bank of Japan, with expectations high that it will hold off any further easing of monetary policy.

Hopes in Tokyo are also high as the corporate reporting season gets into full swing, with Panasonic and Honda due to report later Tuesday The euro fetched US$1.0876 and 129.60 yen against US$1.0889 and 129.64 yen in US trade.

The single currency has managed to hold its own despite the long-running stand-off between Greece and its creditors as its anti-austerity government tries to reform its bailout.

Athens has been trying to negotiate a deal that would unlock 7.2 billion euros in remaining EU-IMF bailout money that it needs to avoid default and a possible exit from the euro.

Hopes for a deal were increased after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday said he was confident of a breakthrough by early May.

While he has resisted pressure to continue with a policy of cuts in return for the cash, he did say he was prepared to consider a number of privatisations.

On Monday, Mr Tsipras reshuffled his negotiating team after another high-level meeting of European finance ministers in Riga ended in failure.

However, he defended his embattled Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, whose flamboyant style has reportedly irritated his European peers, calling him an "important asset" to the government.

Oil weakened in Asia after a senior Saudi official signalled that the world's top crude exporter has no intention of cutting production despite a global oversupply, analysts said.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell 51 cents to US$56.48 while Brent eased 49 cents to US$64.34.

Gold fetched US$1,199.83 against US$1,185.34 late Monday.


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