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Asia stocks up after successful Greek bond auction


February 19. 2013 5:14PM
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(AP) Asian stock markets edged higher Wednesday as the threat of an imminent meltdown in debt-swamped Greece receded.


Greece held a sale of short-term treasury bills Tuesday that will help it make a crucial debt repayment at the end of the week. Without the sale, Athens would have found it impossible to repay the 5 billion ($6.4 billion) treasury bill maturing on Friday, the day on which Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said Greece would run out of money.


Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong called the auction of 4.06 billion euros ($5.15 billion) in bills a success and said that it added to the positive tone helping to boost stocks.


Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose marginally to 8,662.30. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.9 percent to 21,373.88 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3 percent to 4,393.30. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.1 percent to 1,887.69.


Benchmarks in Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines also rose. Singapore and Malaysia fell.


Greece has been locked out of the international long-term debt market by exceptionally high interest rates demanded for its bonds since 2010, and has been relying on funds from rescue loans by other euro countries and the International Monetary Fund.


Traders also have to deal with the uncertainty posed in the U.S. by the looming fiscal cliff, a set of U.S. government spending cuts and tax increases that will take effect automatically at the beginning of next year unless U.S. leaders reach a compromise before then.


Unless Congress acts, all Bush-era tax cuts would expire, raising 2013 tax bills for most Americans. Obama wants to end those tax cuts only for households making more than $250,000 a year while Republicans oppose all tax rate increases.


Worries about the fiscal cliff pushed U.S. stocks to one of their worst weekly losses of the year last week.


U.S. lawmakers gathered for talks on Tuesday, giving traders hope that at least a temporary compromise might somehow be reached before the fiscal cliff deadline in seven weeks.


People feel there's been a significant pullback over fiscal cliff worries, said Andrew Sullivan, an independent market analyst in Hong Kong. The reality is we are likely to see a solution.


Among individual stocks, Japan's Sharp Corp. soared 7.9 percent after Japanese media reports said Intel Corp., the world's largest chipmaker, was in talks with the struggling electronics maker about a business alliance.


South Korean tech shares led gains in Seoul. Chipmaker SK Hynix gained 4.3 percent. LG Electronics added 5.6 percent on an improved sales outlook for the fourth quarter, Yonhap News Agency said.


On Tuesday, the Dow closed down closed down 0.5 percent at 12,756.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.4 percent to 1,374.53. The Nasdaq composite index lost 0.7 percent to 2,883.89.


Benchmark oil for December delivery was down 2 cents to $85.36 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 19 cents to finish at $85.38 per barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.


The euro rose to $1.2723 from $1.2705 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 79.49 yen from 79.41 yen.


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Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson


Associated Press


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