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Asia: Stocks mostly up, dollar pushes higher


[HONG KONG] Asian stocks were slightly higher Monday as concerns over Greece and China's recent market rout eased, while the dollar pushed higher on expectations for a US interest rate hike by the end of the year.

Shanghai led the gains but was undergoing some fresh volatility as more firms trade again after being suspended at the height of the latest stock crisis that wiped billions off mainland valuations.

Shanghai added 0.91 percent, Hong Kong gained 0.23 per cent, Singapore was 0.44 per cent higher and Wellington put on 0.25 per cent.

Sydney slipped 0.11 per cent and Seoul was flat.

Tokyo and Jakarta were closed for public holidays.

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Analysts said investors are now beginning to focus back on macro-economic data after the past few months that saw the Greek debt crisis and a more than 30 percent plunge in Chinese stocks.

Last week Greece agreed to a swathe of new austerity measures from creditors in exchange for much needed cash that will keep it in the eurozone for now.

"This soft tone to this morning's market opening indicates that investors have finished the process of unwinding the risk premium built into valuations as a defence against any unforeseen complications from a 'Grexit'," said CMC Markets' chief analyst Ric Spooner.

While Greece's banks prepared to reopen Monday after a three-week shutdown, capital controls will remain largely in place while citizens also face widespread price hikes.

Eyes are now on Washington as the Federal Reserve considers when to hike interest rates from their record lows as the US economy gets back up to speed. Last week Fed chief Janet Yellen said she saw a rise taking place before 2016.

"The US dollar is firm. Grexit worries have subsided," DBS Bank said in a market commentary, using a term referring to debt-strapped Greece exiting from the eurozone if it had not met bailout terms demanded by creditors.

"Focus returned to monetary policy divergences. Europe and Japan are set to keep their quantitative easing programmes running well into 2016. The US is, on the other hand, looking to hike rates and normalise monetary policy," it added.

The central banks of Japan and Europe are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on bonds to support their respective economies, pushing down the value of the yen and euro.

The dollar bought 124.16 yen in Asia Monday, compared with 124.09 yen in New York.

The euro fetched US$1.0828 against US$1.0830, while it was also at 134.45 yen from 134.38 yen.

In China, shares continue to advance following a more than seven percent over the previous two weeks after China introduced a raft of measures to prevent a market meltdown.

Stocks had slumped for almost four weeks after hitting a June 12 high.

However, equities Monday moved in and out of positive territory as profit-takers mixed with traders looking to get back into the market.

Wu Kan, a Shanghai-based fund manager at Dragon Life Insurance Co, told Bloomberg News: "It looks like the rebound has legs as confidence has partially recovered." On oil markets, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for August delivery was down 11 cents to US$50.78 and Brent crude for September fell 10 cents to US$57.00 a barrel in morning Asian trade.

Gold fetched US$1,132.44 compared with US$1,144.18 late Friday.


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