Asian stock markets mostly rise, gains tempered by Greek debt standoff

Markets Associated Press

Asian stock markets were mostly higher Tuesday but gains were tempered after Greek debt talks broke down, raising the prospect Athens might leave the euro currency.

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KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo's Nikkei 225 was little changed at 18,001.58 while the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.9 percent to 3,252.30. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3 percent to 24,808.39 and Seoul's Kospi was up 0.1 percent at 1,959.61. Singapore and Sydney declined while Jakarta gained slightly. On Monday, Germany's DAX fell 0.4 percent. France's CAC 40 and Britain's FTSE 100 both shed 0.2 percent. Wall Street was closed for a holiday.

GREEK JITTERS: Greece's European creditors told it to ask for an extension to its existing bailout program before further talks on its financing can take place. After five years of punishing austerity, Greece is seeking more generous terms for paying off its huge debt. The ultimatum came after a meeting of the finance ministers of the 19 euro nations ended in seeming acrimony after just three hours. If no agreement is reached by the end of the month, financial markets think Greece might have little option but to default and stop using the euro currency.

THE QUOTE: "Europe will remain an overarching risk story for investors," said IG strategist Evan Lucas in a commentary. "Russia and China are watching this situation very closely and both would be in Athens very quickly to discuss how they can assist the Greeks. In the more likely scenario of Greece remaining in the EU, the question remains of whether the ECB would provide additional support, looking to provide stimulus rather than forcing further austerity."

ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude was up 33 cents to $53.11 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In the previous session, the contract gained $1.57 to close at $52.78.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 118.57 yen from 118.27 yen on Monday. The euro rose to $1.1361 from $1.1335.