Asian markets mostly up, euro holds gains

Asian markets mostly up, euro holds gains

HONG KONG - Asian markets mostly advanced Friday following a healthy rally on Wall Street, while Tokyo was supported by a weaker yen and Hong Kong enjoyed strong buying in the afternoon.

The euro remained a target for buying after this week's upbeat eurozone growth data and despite Greece's struggles to hammer out a debt reform deal with creditors.

Tokyo's Nikkei index climbed 0.83 per cent, or 162.68 points to finish at 19,732.92 and Sydney put on 0.68 per cent, or 38.9 points, to 5,735.5. Hong Kong surged 2.20 per cent in the afternoon.

However, Seoul fell 0.65 per cent, or 13.83 points, to close at 2,106.50 while Shanghai shed 0.71 per cent in late trade.

The three main indexes in New York each tacked on more than one per cent Thursday as expectations the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates have fizzled in the wake of a string of soft economic indicators.

Figures showing the US producer price index fell 0.4 per cent last month more than wiped out March's first increase since October and fell well short of forecasts for a 0.2 per cent rise. That came a day after news that retails sales saw their weakest year-on-year growth since 2009.

The results follow other poor recent indicators -- including anaemic wage growth, a tepid manufacturing sector and weak economic growth -- which analysts mostly say will likely keep the Fed from raising rates soon.

In US trade the S&P 500 rose 1.08 per cent to end at a record high, while the Dow rallied 1.06 per cent and the Nasdaq jumped 1.39 per cent.

Despite lending rates tipped to remain at record lows for the time being the dollar ticked higher Friday.

The greenback bought 119.48 yen against 119.19 yen in New York.

Greece woes linger

"We remain constructive on the US dollar but accept there is no near-term catalyst for recovery," BNP Paribas said in a report. "The June 5 employment report may be the USD's next best chance for new inspiration."

The euro was at $1.1397 and 136.10 yen against $1.1414 and 136.04 yen in US trade.

The single currency has been buoyed this week by news the eurozone economy met expectations and grew 0.4 per cent quarter-on-quarter in January-March, up from 0.3 per cent in the previous three months.

However, market-watchers remain nervous about Greece's plodding talks with creditors on overhauling its bailout.

The country's Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has warned it could run out of money by the end of the month if it does not reach a deal that unlocks billions of dollars in much-needed cash to service its debts and avert a default.

There are worries a default could set in motion Greece's eventual ejection from the eurozone, which would ripple around the world.

On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for June delivery fell seven cents to $59.81 while Brent crude for July fell two cents to $66.64 in afternoon trade.

Gold fetched $1,219.05 from $1,218.82 late Wednesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei fell 0.33 per cent, or 31.35 points, to 9,579.48.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co rose 0.34 per cent to Tw$146.5 while Hon Hai slipped 0.64 per cent to Tw$93.1.

-- Wellington gained 0.38 per cent, or 21.97 points, to 5,760.38.

Spark was up 0.70 per cent at NZ$2.89 and Air New Zealand added 1.38 per cent to NZ$2.94.

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