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    Default Asian stocks rise as Greece nears debt swap deal, China inflation eases

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    Asian stock markets rose on 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 per cent to 9,919.69 after briefly touching 9,939.33 - its highest intraday level since August 1, 2011.

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

    China's Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.2 per cent 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 per cent from January's 4.5 per cent.

    On the European debt crisis front, a Greek government official told The Associated Press that investors holding 75 per cent 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 per cent of investors to participate to qualify for an emergency bailout of euro 130 billion, or about $173 billion, and avoid a default later this month. Athens will release final results on 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 US nonfarm payrolls figures for February, which often set the market tone for a week or two after their release. A marked improvement in the US jobs picture in recent months has buoyed hopes over the economic recovery in the US 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 per cent at 12,907.94. The S&P 500 gained 1 per cent to close at 1,365.91. The Nasdaq composite index added 1.2 per cent 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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