Asian stocks higher on Greek debt deal hope

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Wednesday as confidence grew that Greece would reach a new debt deal with its European creditors enabling it to stay in the euro currency bloc.

KEEPING SCORE: South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.6 percent to 1,947.92 and China’s Shanghai Composite added 0.3 percent to 3,152.15. Stocks in Southeast Asia and Taiwan also rose. Hong Kong was among the few Asian markets in the red; the Hang Seng fell 0.5 percent to 24,402.68. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.7 percent to 5,760.70. Japan was closed for a holiday.

GREEK DRAMA: Finance ministers from euro nations are holding an emergency meeting in Brussels on Greece later Wednesday, which will be their first opportunity to hear directly from the new left-wing anti-austerity Greek government. Greece wants to renegotiate the terms of its international bailout that has imposed years of punishing austerity on the country; the current agreement expires in late February. Speculation that Greece could be granted extra time to hold new negotiations buoyed European and U.S. markets Tuesday.

THE QUOTE: “Statements or leaks from the various parties to negotiations over Greek debt are being made on a daily basis at the moment,” Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said in a commentary. “Traders are engaged in the process of trying to determine whether or not these provide any credible clue as to the final outcome of the negotiations. Last night’s conflicting statements were taken as a positive on balance.”

WALL STREET: Stocks were lifted Tuesday by positive earnings and signs Greece might be willing to broker a deal with its creditors. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 1.1 percent to 2,068.59. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.8 percent to 17,868.76. The Nasdaq composite rose 61.63 points, or 1.3 percent, to 4,787.64.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 40 cents to $50.41 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.84 to close at $50.02 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell 16 cents to $57.33 in London. The International Energy Agency said that the recent rebound in oil prices “will be comparatively limited in scope.”

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 119.51 yen from 119.35 yen. The euro rose to $1.1328 from $1.1319.

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