HONG KONG – Asian markets were higher and the euro rose in early trade on cautious optimism Thursday as European leaders announced they had struck a deal to tackle the region’s crippling sovereign debt woes.
After 10 hours of painstaking talks in Brussels, banks holding Greece’s mountain of debt agreed to take a 50 percent “haircut”, breaking a deadlock many hope will go towards solving the two-year-old crisis.
The summit also established a deal that will force lenders to increase their defences to absorb any losses on the Greek debt writedown while more than doubling a rescue fund aimed at protecting other economies from Greece’s fate.
Tokyo added 0.54 percent by the break, Hong Kong rose 1.35 percent, Shanghai was 0.64 percent higher and Seoul climbed 1.07 percent.
Sydney was closed indefinitely due to a technical glitch.
The agreement by holders of Greek bonds to write down 50 percent of their debt — much more than the 21 percent they agreed to at a summit in July — will see help Athens slash 100 billion euros ($140 billion) from the 350 billion euros it owes.
Lenders agreed to the move after German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy broke off from long-running talks to speak directly to the head of the banking lobby.
Convincing banks to erase billions in Greek debt is a key part of a grand deal leaders had pledged to deliver, along with the bank recapitalisation and beefed-up rescue fund.
Banks had earlier agreed to a recapitalisation to protect themselves against a Greek writedown.
The declaration on recapitalisation, which came after a meeting of all 27 European Union members, lacked any details but sources said it would amount to 108 billion euros.
That had been contingent only on a full package being agreed to protect the euro.
Soon after the talks wrapped up in the early hours, Sarkozy announced that the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) rescue fund would be increased to one trillion euros from the 440 billion agreed in July.
The EFSF, the main weapon against the crisis, has already been used to help Portugal and Ireland, and would be tapped in a new Greek rescue. However, it would be too small for bigger endangered economies, such as Italy and Spain.
Global powers, from the United States to Japan and China, had been pressing European leaders to come up with a lasting solution to the debt crisis before a G20 summit in France on November 3 and 4.
The crisis has sent markets spinning amid fears that it could spill over onto the global economy and lead to another financial meltdown.
On currency markets the euro was higher, buying $1.3976 in Tokyo trade against $1.3908 late Wednesday in New York, while it rose to 106.27 yen from 105.98.
The dollar was at 76.03 yen, compared with 76.21 yen, after hitting a fresh post-World War II low of 75.71 yen in New York on Wednesday.
New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December, gained $1.11 to $91.31 per barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for December delivery added 70 cents to $109.61.
By 0230 GMT, gold was up at $1,726.55 an ounce, against $1,713.50 late Wednesday.