Euro at three-week high versus dollar, Japan data lifts Nikkei (Reuters)

May 31, 2011
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SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The euro hit a three-week high versus the dollar on Tuesday on a report that Germany could make concessions on efforts to put together a bailout for Greece, while Japanese shares rose on data suggesting industrial activity has begun to recover from the March earthquake.

The euro rose to $1.4354, its highest in three weeks, supported by a Wall Street Journal report that Germany is considering dropping its demand for an early rescheduling of Greek bonds in order to facilitate a new package of aid loans for heavily-indebted Greece.

The European Union wants to draft a second bailout package for Greece to release vital loans next month and avert the risk of the euro zone country defaulting, EU officials said on Monday.

“The euro zone problems appear to be subsiding for now. Or putting it another way, the market appears to have stopped looking at them as a factor for now,” said Teppei Ino, a currency analyst at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, adding the market could focus on upcoming U.S. data releases. Key numbers including ISM manufacturing and payroll data are due this week.

In Japan, the Nikkei average (.N225) rose more than 1 percent to 9615.54, boosted by industrial output figures.

Though an output increase of 1 percent in April was below expectations, manufacturers sharply increased their forecasts for May, predicting output will rise 8.0 percent compared with the previous 2.7 percent forecast, data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed.

Companies expect the recovery to continue in June, a sign they are making progress in recovering from the March earthquake.

“Investors got past the weak data in April and cheered the strong outlook by buying futures,” said Tsuyoshi Segawa, an equity strategist at Mizuho Securities.

Big gainers on the Nikkei included solar power firms, expected to win business as a result of Germany’s decision to shut all its nuclear reactors by 2022, a switch in policy prompted by the Fukushima radiation scare in Japan.

Panel-maker Sharp Corp (6753.T) rose 3.0 percent to 762 yen and panel equipment manufacturer Ulvac (6728.T) surged 2.9 percent to 2,073 yen.

MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific stocks (.MIAPJ0000PUS) outside Japan was up 1.2 percent.

Brent crude oil for July delivery rose 97 cents to $115.65 a barrel, having slipped below $115 on Monday, when markets were closed in the United States and Britain. Prices are down around 9 percent in May, the biggest drop since May last year.

Gold ticked up to $1,538.80 per ounce by 0209 GMT, after closing at $1,597.95 on Monday in trade drastically thinned by market holidays in the U.S. and Britain.

Gold, one of the chief beneficiaries of worries about the security of currencies and other assets, set a record high of $1,575.79 per ounce in early May.

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