Wednesday 21 March 2018

Debt crisis: Greek deal buoys markets

WORLD markets surged today after Greece's parliament approved the austerity measures needed to secure new bailout funds.

Miners were the driving force behind the rally after the Greek vote boosted appetite for riskier assets, with the price of benchmark crude above $99 a barrel and the US dollar weaker against the euro and yen.

Asian markets set the tone overnight before the FTSE 100 Index climbed 1pc or 60.4 points to 5912.8 and other European markets followed suit.

Lloyds Banking Group was the pick of the banks after Greece's successful vote reduced the prospect of the country's exit from the single currency. Royal Bank of Scotland was 0.6p higher at 28.5p and Barclays lifted 4.5p to 238.6p.

The biggest development in London City involved Vodafone's confirmation that it was mulling a potential bid for corporate telecoms firm Cable & Wireless Worldwide.

Vodafone, which has the resources to do the deal after building up a cash pile of £7 billion by the end of September, will be interested in growing its corporate operation in the UK amid slower consumer growth.

The market value of Cable & Wireless Worldwide has slumped in recent months after a series of profit warnings but jumped to just under £700 million today after shares surged 28pc or 5.5p to 25.2p. Vodafone was up 1.4p at 174p.

In Asia Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.6pc to 8,997.97. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.7pc to 20,928.56. South Korea's Kospi added 0.5pc to 2,004.42.

Drastic cuts in civil service jobs, minimum wages and pensions were among the measures approved by politicians in Greece in order to collect a second, urgently needed rescue loan for the country.

Without the €170 billion financial lifeline, Greece will default on a mountain of national debt next month and likely be pressed into a disruptive exit from the euro common currency.

Investors in Asia greeted the Greek vote with relief. But Greeks, who have been struggling to cope with a 20pc unemployment rate and five years of recession, took to the streets to protest the measures. Riots and fires continued all weekend.

Attention now shifts to a meeting on Wednesday of European finance ministers, who will discuss additional bailout funds for Greece.

Analysts at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in an email that the parliament vote "did not come without major cost in the form of escalating protests and violence within Greece. "At least for today the market tone will be a positive one as attention shifts to a meeting of EU finance ministers on Wednesday."

Elsewhere, Chinese property shares plummeted after the city of Wuhu, in eastern China, announced it was suspending plans it announced last week to subsidise some home purchases and give tax breaks to help support the local market.

That news, suggesting an easing of curbs on the real estate market, pushed property and related shares higher late last week.

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