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Euro gains ahead of Greek debt talks

TOKYO: The euro edged up against the dollar in Asia on Monday ahead of key talks between Greece and its international creditors aimed at hashing out a last-minute debt deal.

The euro rose to $1.1416 from $1.1393, with the common currency winning some support from better-than-expected eurozone growth data last week.

It changed hands at 135.24 yen, lower than 135.29 yen in US trading. In Tokyo, the greenback also weakened to 118.47 yen from 118.74 yen in New York on Friday.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will Monday meet his counterparts from the eurozone in Brussels to get their backing for an overhaul of an austerity-laden bailout, which Athens says has crippled the country’s economy.

While Greece’s new government faces stern opposition, mostly from key European paymaster Germany, Varoufakis and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras say they are confident they can win over sceptics.

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 crashes out of the eurozone.

Official data released Friday showed the eurozone economy picked up in the fourth quarter, expanding by a better-than-expected 0.3 percent after a 0.2 percent rise in the third quarter.

The currency bloc’s fourth-quarter growth was led by a 0.7 percent gain in Germany, the bloc’s largest economy, which also beat estimates.

The cheerful numbers come ahead of the start of the European Central Bank’s unprecedented trillion-euro bond-buying programme next month, launched in a bid to ward off deflation and boost the flagging eurozone economy.

The yen edged up against the dollar after figures showing Japan’s economy emerged from recession in October-December, growing 0.6 percent.

However, over the full year the preliminary data showed zero growth, compared with 1.6 percent expansion in 2013. Revised data will be released in the following weeks.

While the news is likely to boost speculation of further Bank of Japan monetary easing, few expect policymakers to act at the bank’s next meeting this week.

“There’s a view emerging that the Japanese government questions the need for additional easing,” Kumiko Ishikawa, analyst at Gaitame.com Research Institute, told Bloomberg News.

“Fundamentally, (the) dollar-yen (rate) should stay anchored around the 118 level for now.”

The dollar was mixed against key Asia-Pacific currencies.

It strengthened to Tw$31.39 from Tw$31.36 on Friday, to Sg$1.3545 from Sg$1.3544, and to 1,101.21 South Korean won from 1,096.50 won.

The dollar weakened to 12,757.50 Indonesian rupiah from 12,762.60 rupiah and to 32.58 Thai baht from 32.59 baht.

It was unchanged at 62.15 Indian rupees and 44.25 Philippine pesos.

The Australian dollar rose to 77.92 US cents from 77.84 cents, while the Chinese yuan was stronger at 19.00 yen from 18.98 yen. (AFP)

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