Asia stocks boosted by Greek debt deal hopes

Hong Kong: Asian markets rallied and the euro held up Wednesday on hopes of a settlement in Greece´s debt stand-off after it emerged that the country will ask for an extension to its bailout and avoid a painful eurozone exit.

Another record close on Wall Street also provided support, although trade was thin with some markets closed and others winding down for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Tokyo rose 0.84 percent, Hong Kong added 0.21 percent, Sydney put on 0.61 percent and Singapore was 0.41 percent higher.

Shanghai, Seoul and Taipei were closed for public holidays.

Greek public television said Tuesday that the new government will apply for further aid from its European partners, although will not sign up to the painful austerity measures imposed on the country.

And in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said: “We should extend the credit programme by a few months to have enough stability so that we can negotiate a new agreement between Greece and Europe.”

The news will come as a relief after two eurozone finance ministers´ meetings in the past week both collapsed without agreement as Athens refused to continue with the bailout that imposed swingeing spending cuts and tax hikes.

The apparent change of face also comes days before its financial lifeline package expires, which would leave the country without any cash and unable to pay its bills, leading it to default and almost certainly leave the eurozone.

Investors bought up the euro on the reports and it held the gains in Asia. The single currency fetched $1.1404 and 136.02 yen Wednesday, slightly down from $1.1413 and 136.13 yen in New York afternoon but well above the $1.1357 and 134.70 yen quoted in Tokyo earlier Tuesday.

The dollar fetched 119.29 yen from 119.29 yen in New York and 118.55 yen in Tokyo on Tuesday.

US shares resumed their record-breaking run Tuesday after they were closed Monday for a public holiday.

The S&P 500 climbed 0.16 percent to a second straight all-time high, while the Dow added 0.16 percent. The Nasdaq was up 0.11 percent.

Oil prices, which have enjoyed a small recovery over the past week, eased. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for March delivery fell 33 cents to $53.20 while Brent crude for April eased 20 cents to $62.33.

Gold fetched $1,208.28 an ounce, against $1,220.88 on Tuesday.