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Asia markets mostly up on Ukraine deal, Greece hopes

HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly rose Friday after European leaders and Russia agreed a plan to end Ukraine’s 10-month war, while confidence Greece would reach a debt overhaul deal with its creditors boosted the euro against the dollar.

The upbeat outlook for both of the crises plaguing Europe provided a catalyst for an equities rally in Europe and the United States, a mantle picked up in bourses across Asia.

Sydney rallied 2.33 percent, or 133.90 points, to 5,877.5 as energy firms were boosted by a rebound in oil prices and the head of Australia’s central bank said it was unlikely to cut interest rates to zero.

Seoul climbed 0.82 percent, or 15.87 points, to close at 1,957.50 and Shanghai jumped 0.96 percent, or 30.41 points, to 3,202.83. In late trade Hong Kong was 0.85 percent higher.

But Tokyo retreated from a seven-year high, slipping 0.37 percent, or 66.36 points, to close at 17,913.36.

After 17-hour talks the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany on Thursday hammered out a blueprint to end the conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels.

The ceasefire is to take effect at midnight Sunday (2200 GMT Saturday) in Ukraine and heavy weapons are to be withdrawn from frontlines.

But while the deal was welcomed on all sides, leaders remained cautious, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying “I have no illusions, we have no illusions” and that “much work” remained.

The news pushed European stocks higher, with Frankfurt up 1.56 percent, Paris adding 1.00 percent and London 0.15 percent higher.

On Wall Street, the Dow added 0.62 percent, the S&P 500 jumped 0.96 percent — both close to record highs — and the Nasdaq surged 1.18 percent to levels not seen since 2000.

– ‘Glass half-full’ –

“People are looking at the glass half-full,” John Carey, a Boston-based fund manager at Pioneer Investment Management, told Bloomberg News.

“There’s general optimism around the US economy and a little bit of relief that some of the major international issues are not going to impinge just yet on positive trends here.”

Hopes for a breakthrough in Greece also provided support as the country’s new anti-austerity Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras presented his case for an overhaul of its aid programme to EU leaders including Merkel, the strongest opponent of his plans.

Tsipras said Athens would start technical talks with eurozone partners on Friday in a bid to find common ground before a last-ditch meeting of finance ministers on Monday.

Global markets are hoping a deal can be reached before the end of the month, when Greece’s bailout is due to expire. Failure to agree an extension would see it default on its giant debts and could mean it would crash out of the eurozone.

The European Central Bank also cheered markets when it increased the volume of emergency cash available to Greek banks, easing concerns over liquidity that had led to speculation of a possible run on the country’s lenders.

The euro bought $1.1427 and 135.61 yen, compared with $1.1406 and 135.70 yen in New York.

The dollar was at 118.68 yen early Friday, compared with 118.97 yen in US trade, weighed down by weak US retail sales data.

On oil markets, prices rose, adding to steep gains in the previous session fuelled by planned investment cuts by the world’s leading petroleum producers.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery added 71 cents to $51.92 while Brent crude for April was up 79 cents at $60.07.

Gold fetched $1,230.22 an ounce, against $1,223.20 on Thursday.

In other markets:

— Taipei added 0.35 percent, or 33.20 points, to 9,529.51.

Smartphone maker HTC rose 0.68 percent to Tw$148.5 while Hon Hai Precision fell 0.46 percent to Tw$85.8.

— Wellington advanced 0.65 percent, or 37.23 points, to 5,786.54.

Spark was up 0.45 percent at NZ$3.33 and Air New Zealand lifted 0.19 percent to NZ$2.62. (AFP)

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