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Asia stocks rise on Greece, tame Chinese inflation

In this March 6, 2012 photo, traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York. World stock markets cautiously rebounded Wednesday March 7, 2012 in a week that saw Europe's debt crisis return to center stage over concerns Greece would not attract enough investor support for a deal meant to head off a messy default. In this March 6, 2012 photo, traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York. World stock markets cautiously rebounded Wednesday March 7, 2012 in a week that saw Europe's debt crisis return to center stage over concerns Greece would not attract enough investor support for a deal meant to head off a messy default. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
By Pamela Sampson
AP Business Writer / March 8, 2012
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BANGKOK—Asian stock markets rose Friday as China's inflation eased and Greece moved closer toward inking a deal with private investors to restructure its debt and avoid a massive default.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index hit a seven-month high. The benchmark in Tokyo jumped 1.5 percent to 9,919.69 after briefly touching 9,939.33 -- its highest intraday level since Aug. 1.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3 percent to 20,963.75. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3 percent to 2,006.58 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.5 percent to 4,192.10.

China's Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.2 percent to 2,423.31. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia also rose.

Markets were reassured by news that China's inflation fell sharply in February, giving Beijing more leeway to stimulate the world's No. 2 economy. Consumer price inflation fell to 3.2 percent from January's 4.5 percent.

On the European debt crisis front, a Greek government official told The Associated Press that investors holding 75 percent of the debt have so far pledged to exchange their existing Greek bonds for ones with a lower face value and interest rate.

Greece needs 90 percent of investors to participate to qualify for an emergency bailout of euro130 billion, or about $173 billion, and avoid a default later this month. Athens will release final results Friday.

Greece has passed legislation known as collective action clauses, which could allow it to force holdouts to participate if a majority of bondholders agree to sign up voluntarily.

Once details of the Greek bond swap are out, investors will likely turn their attention to Friday's U.S. nonfarm payrolls figures for February, which often set the market tone for a week or two after their release. A marked improvement in the U.S. jobs picture in recent months has buoyed hopes over the economic recovery in the U.S. and that's fed through into the performance of stock markets all round the world.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 0.6 percent at 12,907.94. The S&P 500 gained 1 percent to close at 1,365.91. The Nasdaq composite index added 1.2 percent to close at 2,970.42.

Benchmark oil for April delivery was up 24 cents to $106.82 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 42 cents to settle at $106.58 per barrel in New York on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro was slightly down at $1.3268 from $1.3270 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 81.79 yen from 81.60 yen.

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