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Markets dip ahead of Greek deadline

Asian stock markets have fallen as jittery investors awaited a deadline for Greece to get sufficient support from its private creditors for a debt reduction deal or face default.

Benchmark oil rose above 105 US dollars per barrel while the dollar fell against the yen and the euro.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.8% to 9,563.73. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 0.8% to 20,644.43 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.7% to 1,987.40.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 1.2% to 4,152.80. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, India and the Philippines fell. Mainland China was mixed.

The losses in Asia come a day after US stocks had their first big stumble of 2012 on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping more than 203 points.

The biggest concern in markets is a deadline on Thursday for Greece's private bondholders to accept a deal to swap their Greek government bonds for replacements with a lower face value and interest rate. The swap is vital for Greece to cut its debt and get a bailout of 130 billion euro from other countries and the International Monetary Fund.

Without the bailout, Greece could default on its debt later this month and rattle markets around the world.

A report showing that the combined economies of euro countries shrank at the end of 2011 and talk of war from Israel over Iran's nuclear programme also weighed on investors' nerves.

Among individual stocks, Hong Kong-listed China Life Insurance, the country's biggest life insurer, plunged 5.2% after it issued a profit warning relating to its 2011 results.

China's lower economic growth target of 7.5% weighed on resource and mining stocks because the country is such a huge importer of raw materials.

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From Belfast Telegraph