Asian stocks head for five-month high on optimism about Greece

TOKYO (Bloomberg) - Asian stocks rose after US shares climbed to a record amid speculation Greece will reach a resolution with its creditors.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.3 per cent to 143.65 as of 9.15am in Tokyo, heading for its highest since Sept 19. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed above 2,100 for the first time in history, after a person familiar with the matter said Greece may request an extension of its loan agreement for six months.

"The US is still in a pretty strong bull market," said Mr Don Williams, Sydney-based fund manager at Platypus, which oversees about A$1.6 billion (S$1.7 billion). Unless Greece "completely blows up, it's not particularly bearish for markets".

An extension of Greece's rescue package would be a step towards easing the stalemate over the country's future financing. Discussions aimed at finding common ground ended on Feb 16 without breaking an impasse. With no deal, Greece could run out of money by March may be forced to abandon the euro.

Japan's Topix index advanced 1.2 per cent after the yen weakened 0.7 per cent against the dollar on Tuesday. Central bank policy makers are scheduled to finish a two-day meeting today, with no changes predicted. Officials view further monetary easing to shore up inflation as a counterproductive step for now, people familiar with the talks said last week.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.4 per cent. New Zealand's NZX 50 Index slipped 0.4 per cent. Markets in Hong Kong and Singapore have yet to open.

Exchanges in China and South Korea are shut for holidays from today, while Hong Kong and Singapore will close early. Markets in South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore reopen Monday, with China resuming on Wednesday.

Futures on the S&P 500 rose 0.1 per cent after the underlying gauge reached a record for a second day.

The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its January meeting today. The central bank boosted its assessment of the economy and downplayed low inflation readings in its latest policy statement, even as it acknowledged global risks.

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