As Asia stocks rise, euro is firm

Asian share markets posted mild gains on Tuesday, with Australian stocks boosted by upbeat earnings from lender Westpac, while the euro held its ground as Greece was given 30 days to show its deficit plans were on track.

Centers such as Hong Kong and Shanghai remained closed for the Lunar New Year and with U.S. markets also shut on Monday, gains in Asia were light as investors continued to weigh the fiscal risks in the euro zone and the impact of China’s latest credit tightening.

But stocks in Australia gained 1 percent and the MSCI index of Asian shares excluding Japan rose 0.5 percent to touch its highest level in nearly two weeks, with financials and metals stocks leading the gains.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei edged up 0.5 percent and was holding just above the 10,000 mark for the third session in a row, with foreign investor buying reported in blue-chips, although the mood was fragile due to China and Greece.

“After the last earnings season there are more signs of recovery for Japanese companies, and this is making the Nikkei more attractive,” said Kenichi Hirano, operating officer at Tachibana Securities.

The broader Topix, which rose 0.4 percent, has lost less since investor confidence took a dive at the start of the year than benchmarks in Hong Kong, India and South Korea, off just 2.2 percent against nearly 5 percent for Seoul’s KOSPI.

* But Japan’s third-largest trading company, Sumitomo Corp, lost 3.7 percent after it said it would launch a $1.4 billion tender offer to raise its stake in cable TV firm Jupiter Telecom, countering a rival bid by telco KDDI.

* Seoul shares rose 0.7 percent, led by automakers and Daewoo Engineering, which jumped as much as 8 percent after a newspaper reported a U.S. consortium was seeking to buy the South Korean builder for $3 billion.

* In Australia, shares in Westpac Banking Corp, the country’s third-biggest lender, rose 5.8 percent after it posted a better-than-expected 33 percent rise in cash profit but warned investors of rising funding costs and consumer defaults.

* The euro gained 0.2 percent to $1.3625, holding above last week’s nine-month low of $1.3532.

* It was unable to make much progress after euro zone states urged Greece to announce more deficit-control steps by March if needed but shed no light on their pledge to defend the country in the event of market pressures.

Source: Reuters

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