Asian stocks mostly drift lower as market focus turns to outlook for interest rates

MarketsAssociated Press

Asian stocks mostly drifted lower Monday as investors put Greece's debt crisis behind them to focus on the outlook for interest rates, corporate earnings and China's economy.

KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.4 percent to 3,940.50 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.2 percent to 25,354.70. Seoul's Kospi was off 0.2 percent at 2,071.87 and Bangkok, Taiwan and Manila also fell. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1 percent to 5,675.20 and Singapore and New Zealand also rose. Tokyo was closed for a holiday.

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GREEK DEBT: Greece's debt deal cleared a hurdle Friday when German lawmakers approved a third bailout plan. The European Union said it would get Athens enough money for it to keep making its debt payments. Greek Banks were scheduled to re-open Monday, though it was unclear whether capital controls would remain in place.

CHINA WOBBLES: Plunging stock markets appear to have stabilized at least temporarily following a massive government intervention. On Friday, the Shanghai index gained 1.5 percent. Analysts say it is unclear, though, whether the market will hold up once restrictions on selling are lifted. "There is a sense of relief as China seems to have found some stability," said Citigroup in a report. "The question is whether this tentative stability will be followed by a rebound or another leg of economic weakness and, potentially, market distress."

ANALYST'S TAKE: "With the Grexit risk now behind them, the macro focus for investors will turn to the outlook for interest rates, the state of China's economy and the upcoming reporting season," said CMC chief market analyst Ric Spooner in a commentary. "Recent statements by Bank of England Governor Carney indicate that the Fed won't be the only major central bank lifting rates in 2016."

WALL STREET: Stocks were boosted Friday by stronger-than-expected results from several companies. Google Inc. rose 16 percent after reporting quarterly profits and revenue that exceeded forecasts. That came after stronger quarterly reports by companies including Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase helped to encourage investors. The Standard & Poor's 500 edged up 0.1 percent to finish the week with a gain of 2.4 percent. The Nasdaq composite advanced 0.9 percent while the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.2 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 4 cents to $50.85 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In the previous session, the contract declined 2 cents to close at $50.89. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 5 cents to $57.05 in London after adding 18 cents to $57.10 in the previous session.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged up to 124.16 yen from Friday's 124.06 yen. The euro inched down to $1.0826 from $1.0829.