Most Asia stocks rise after Greece approves austerity bill

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HONG KONG (AP) — Asian stock indexes were mostly higher Thursday after Greek lawmakers approved an austerity bill needed for another bailout and the dollar rose after the Fed chief indicated that U.S. interest rates could start rising later this year.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 percent to 20,598.78 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.7 percent to 2,086.49. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.3 percent to 24,982.13. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China swung between gains and losses, slipping 0.4 percent to 3,793.31 as investors looked for direction after big drops the past two days had raised fears of another rout. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.7 percent to 5,674.50.

GREEK RELIEF: In a late-night vote, lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a strict austerity bill that creditors demanded in order to begin negotiations on a new bailout package worth about 85 billion euros ($93 billion) for the debt-stricken Mediterranean country. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted the deal was the best he could come up with to avoid Greece defaulting and leaving the euro currency.

US ECONOMY: In comments to lawmakers, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gave an optimistic assessment for the world's biggest economy. She said the economy is reviving after a harsh winter and said the U.S. central bank could start raising interest rates before the end of the year if improvements stay on track. However she also said rates will remain at very low levels "for quite some time after the first increase." Years of easy credit has boosted global stock markets but the looming possibility of a rate hike is tempting investors to pull out of shares.

ANALYST QUOTE: "The fact the grey clouds that are China and Greece have cleared slightly only brings a sharper focus on the biggest macro cloud of 2015: Fed lift off," IG market strategist Evan Lucas wrote in a commentary.

CURRENCIES: The euro fell to its lowest level since the beginning of June, slipping to $1.0923 from $1.0954 in late trading Wednesday. The dollar eased to 123.86 yen from 123.92 yen.

WALL STREET: Major U.S. benchmarks were little changed. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped less than 0.1 percent to 18,050.17 and the Standard & Poor's 500 edged down less than 0.1 percent to 2,107.40. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.1 percent to 5,098.94.

ENERGY: Oil rebounded from a sharp drop triggered by a report on U.S. supplies that showed a smaller-than-expected decline last week. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 36 cents to $51.77 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.63, or 3 percent, to close at $51.41 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 35 cents to $57.47 a barrel in London.