Asia stocks rise, euro rebounds

Asian shares rose for a fourth straight session and the euro extended its rebound against the dollar on Wednesday as investors held out hope for a bailout package for debt-ridden Greece.

The MSCI index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.5 percent, helped by shares in the materials sector as commodity prices pushed higher.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, a favorite among foreign investors, edged up with HSBC gaining more than 1 percent as investors covered short positions after Tuesday’s sharp fall.

HSBC stocks tumbled 7 percent on Tuesday after Europe’s biggest bank posted disappointing 2009 results.

Japan’s Nikkei stock average clawed up 0.3 percent, led by a 3 percent jump in Toyota Motor Corp after a drop in its February U.S. sales turned out to be smaller than expected given the company’s massive recall.

But trade was lackluster, with investors sidelined ahead of key U.S. jobs data due out on Friday as they searched for clues about the strength of the U.S. economic recovery in the wake of a string of mixed indicators.

“Fundamentally things still aren’t that good, with spending and jobs still not recovering that much even though manufacturing isn’t doing that poorly,” said Hiroaki Osakabe, a fund manager at Chibagin Asset Management.

“The recovery will take time. People were a bit too optimistic in January, especially regarding Japanese stocks.”

The euro rose to $1.3640, pulling away from a near 10-month low of $1.3433 hit the previous day as investors expected that Greece would announce new austerity measures and win European Union financial support.

Prime Minister George Papandreou has called a cabinet meeting for Wednesday. On Tuesday, Papandreou urged civil servants and pensioners to accept sacrifices to save the debt-burdened nation.

The European Commission said Greece must take additional measures to reach its deficit reduction target of 4 percent of gross domestic product in 2010.

Fears about debt problems in Europe have rattled financial markets in recent weeks.

Sterling rose to $1.5063 on short-covering after hitting a 10-month low of $1.4781 earlier in the week. It has been hurt by worries that an election due in months could give neither the opposition Conservatives nor the ruling Labour Party a parliamentary majority.

Gold hovered near a six-week high hit the previous day as volatility in currencies prompted some investors to turn to a safe haven.

Oil prices were steady near $79.55 a barrel after rising 98 cents a day earlier.

Source: Reuters

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