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Markets cheered by Greece progress

Asian stock markets struggled but European shares have advanced as fears that Italy could become the next domino to fall in Europe's debt crisis were muted by Greece edging back from the brink.

Benchmark oil hovered near 96 US dollars per barrel, while the dollar fell against the euro and the yen.

Stocks in Europe gained in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.8% to 5,552.21 while Germany's DAX was 1% higher at 5,986.18 and France's CAC-40 added 0.9% to 3,129.43.

Wall Street was headed for a lower opening, with Dow Jones industrial futures down 0.1% to 1,256.50 and S&P 500 futures losing 0.1% to 1,256.50.

In Asia earlier in the day, stocks struggled to make headway. Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 1.3% to close at 8,655.51, and South Korea's Kospi swung into negative territory midday to close 0.8% down at 1,903.14. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was nearly unchanged, closing less than 1 point higher at 19,678.47. Australia S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5% to settle at 4,293.80.

Wall Street finished higher on news that Greece would receive the latest instalment of emergency aid as long as the country's two main parties commit to implementing economic reforms agreed to by the country's previous government.

The Dow rose 0.7% to close at 12,068.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.6% to 1,261.12. The Nasdaq rose 0.3% to 2,695.25.

Meanwhile, as Greece's economy limped along on life support, worries began to surface about Italy, where the prospect of financial disaster was real because of Rome's huge debts and slow growth.

Unlike Greece, Ireland and Portugal - the three countries that Europe has already bailed out - Italy's economy could be too large to rescue.

Soaring borrowing rates in the past week have intensified pressure on Premier Silvio Berlusconi to resign.


From Belfast Telegraph