HONG KONG - Asian markets were mixed on Monday as investors awaited the outcome of a meeting later in the day aimed at finalising a bailout deal for Greece, amid a simmering budgetary impasse in Washington.
Tokyo rose 0.24 per cent, or 22.14 points, to 9,388.94, Sydney gained 0.25 per cent, or 11.2 points, to close at 4,424.2 but Seoul ended 0.15 per cent, or 2.82 points, lower at 1,908.51.
Hong Kong closed down 0.24 per cent, or 52.17 points, at 21,861.81 while Shanghai slid 0.49 per cent, or 9.92 points, to finish at 2,017.46.
Eurozone finance ministers were to meet later Monday for their third effort to agree on unlocking a 31.2-billion-euro (S$49.5 billion) slice of aid for Greece as it teeters on the verge of bankruptcy as nervous investors hope for positive news.
French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici on Sunday offered some hope in the long-running saga to reach a deal for Athens, saying that ministers were "very close to a solution".
"I don't know if there will be an agreement tomorrow. I know it is possible and I want one," he said.
Europe's main stock markets fell at the start of trading Monday ahead of the meeting on Greece, with London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies down 0.26 per cent at 5,803.98 points.
Frankfurt's DAX 30 shed 0.31 per cent to 7,286.69 points and in Paris the CAC 40 dropped 0.40 per cent to 3,514.86.
The mixed Asian trade came after US stocks rallied Friday on signs that holiday retail sales were off to a good start, with Walmart calling it the "best ever" Black Friday, the traditional discount sales day that kicks off the holiday shopping season.
That helped boost the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 1.35 per cent to 13,009.68.
Investors were also looking out for news of a compromise in Washington that will avert the so-called fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax hikes, which will likely send the economy into recession if it comes into effect.
Finding a new spending deal to replace the package, scheduled to come into effect on January 1, has been elusive in the bitterly-divided US Congress.
"Certainly from our perspective, we are sceptical about whether there has really been any progress in discussions regarding the US fiscal cliff," Angus Gluskie, managing director of White Funds Management in Sydney, told Dow Jones Newswires.
On currency markets the euro lost ground after hitting a seven-month high on the yen.
The single currency bought US$1.2965 (S$1.5856) and 106.38 yen (S$1.5832) from US$1.2973 and 106.90 yen in New York on Friday.
The euro had climbed above 107 yen in earlier Asian trade Monday but the unit quickly fell.
The dollar was also weaker at 82.01 yen against 82.40 yen in US trade.
However, the yen has been under pressure recently on expectations the country's central bank will unveil a new round of monetary easing next month.
Oil markets were also affected by Greek debt fears and the US fiscal cliff, analysts said.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for January delivery, was down four cents to US$88.24 a barrel in the afternoon, and Brent North Sea crude also for January eased 26 cents to US$111.12.
"Having just enjoyed an unexpectedly strong week, global markets remain on a knife edge with uncertainty over Greece and the US taking centre stage again," said Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets Singapore.
Gold was at US$1,747.01 at 1030 GMT compared with US$1,734.47 late Friday.
In other markets:
- Wellington rose 3.69 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 4,012.03, its highest close since January 2008.
Contact Energy gained 1.38 per cent to NZ$5.15 (S$5.18) and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was up 1.63 per cent to NZ$2.50.
- Taipei was up 81.36 points, or 1.11 per cent, at 7,407.37.
Leading smartphone maker HTC added 4.58 per cent to Tw$251.0 (S$10.55) while Hon Hai Precision was 0.87 per cent higher at Tw$92.8.
- Manila rose 0.49 per cent, or 27.08 points, to close at a record high of 5,579.42.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone added 0.4 per cent to 2,510 pesos and Philippine National Bank increased 1.9 per cent to 85.90 pesos.
- Singapore closed 0.51 per cent, or 15.22 points, higher at 3,004.50.
Singapore Telecom rose 0.64 per cent to finish at S$3.16 and property developer CapitaLand ended 0.59 per cent higher at S$3.43.
- Jakarta ended up 0.61 per cent, or 26.361 points, at 4,375.169.
Retailer Ramayana Lestari Sentosa jumped 11.63 per cent to 1,440 rupiah (S$0.18) and tin firm Timah rose 2.94 per cent to 1,400 rupiah.
- Kuala Lumpur fell 0.40 per cent, or 6.44 points, to end at 1,607.88. Axiata Group shed 2.0 per cent to 5.75 ringgit, while CIMB Group Holdings dropped 1.2 per cent to 7.58.
- Bangkok gained 0.71 per cent, or 9.15 points, to 1,290.85. Coal producer Banpu jumped 5.35 per cent to 394.00 baht (S$15.70), while Siam Cement lost 0.77 per cent to 387.00 baht.
- Mumbai rose 0.16 per cent, or 30.44 points, to 18,537.01.
GSK Consumer Healthcare, the local arm of GlaxoSmithKline, jumped 20 per cent to 3,651.8 rupees (S$80.16) on news that the parent firm planned to increase its stake in the local firm to 75 per cent.