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Nov 26, 2012, 09.53 AM IST | Source: Reuters

Asian shares edge higher on hopes for Greek deal

Asian shares rose on Monday on the hope Greece can avoid a near-term bankruptcy, with euro-zone finance ministers meeting later in the day, but a regional Spanish vote favouring separatist parties clouded Madrid's push for fiscal austerity.

Asian shares edge higher on hopes for Greek deal

Asian shares rose on Monday on the hope Greece can avoid a near-term bankruptcy, with euro-zone finance ministers meeting later in the day, but a regional Spanish vote favouring separatist parties clouded Madrid's push for fiscal austerity.

Expectations that an agreement will be reached soon to disburse crucial aid for debt-stricken Greece, and Germany's Ifo business climate index rising for the first time in seven months in November, boosted the euro and riskier assets broadly and reduced appetite for the safe-haven dollar on Friday.

"If there really is an agreement on Greece today, the euro could rise above USD 1.3 against the dollar and 107 against the yen," Masafumi Yamamoto, chief FX strategist at Barclays in Tokyo, said in a research note.

The euro was at USD 1.2966, hovering near a three-week high of USD 1.2991 reached on Friday, and traded at a seven-month peak of 107.10 yen on Monday.

The dollar inched up 0.1 percent, after falling to a three-week low of 80.128 against a basket of major currencies on Friday as risk appetite gained.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.2 percent after rising to a two-week high on Friday and ending its best week in more than two months with a 2.5 percent gain.

Australian shares were up 0.2 percent on gains in energy and mining stocks, and South Korean shares opened up 0.4 percent.

Japan's Nikkei stock average opened 1.1 percent higher at a seven-month high. Japanese financial markets were closed on Friday for a public holiday.

"Although some investors are cautious against the fast-paced gains in the Japanese market, they will likely stay buyers on the back of the improving trading environment in the global market," said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager at SMBC Nikko Securities.

Some analysts said risk sentiment may be weighed by Spain's regional elections in Catalonia on Sunday.

Separatists in Spain's Catalonia won regional elections on Sunday but failed to get the resounding mandate they need to push convincingly for a referendum on independence.

The separatists parties win could raise concerns about the negative impact to the Spanish economy and its fiscal conditions, as Catalonia accounts for 20 percent of the economy and provides the most tax revenue to the central government.

"If the government is forced to give more autonomy to Catalonia in its fiscal policy, it risks derailing the push for fiscal austerity in other provinces, raising the possibility of shifting market focus back to Spain from Greece and undermining the euro," Yamamoto said.

European shares posted their best weekly gain so far this year after rising for a fifth day on Friday, while U.S. stocks rose for a fifth day, getting a lift from bellwether technology firms Intel and Microsoft in light volume after Thursday's US Thanksgiving holiday.

Germany's Ifo index, rising on the back of exports outside the euro zone and the prospect of strong Christmas sales, offered hope Europe's growth engine can retain some momentum.

As investors warmed towards risk, the Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a global commodities benchmark, rose to its highest close since October 23 on Friday -- its best weekly performance since mid-September with a 1.9 percent gain.

Spot gold eased 0.1 percent to USD 1,749.98 an ounce on Monday after rising above USD 1,750 for the first time in five weeks on Friday as a drop in the dollar and options-related buying triggered a technical breakout.

Analysts said Friday's gains could lead to a test above the USD 1,800 level which bullion has not seen since its rally to a record USD 1,920.30 in September 2011.

US crude was down 0.2 percent to USD 88.07 a barrel.

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