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Japan Stock Futures Little Changed as Europe Weighs Greek Rescue

Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Japanese stock futures and Australian equities were little changed as investors await the outcome of negotiations by European finance ministers over a second rescue for Greece.

BHP Billiton Ltd., Australia’s biggest oil producer and mining company, rose 0.6 percent as oil and metal prices gained. Westpac Banking Corp., the nation’s No. 2 lender by market value, fell 0.3 percent. Shares of Canon Inc., a Japanese camera maker that gets 31 percent of its sales in Europe, may be active today.

Futures on Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average expiring in March were bid in the pre-market at 9,470 in Osaka, Japan, at 8:05 a.m. local time, matching their closing level in Osaka yesterday. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index was little changed in early Sydney trading. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.4 percent in Wellington.

“Investors in general can be moderately optimistic about equity markets going forward,” said Andrew Pease, Sydney-based chief investment strategist for the Asia-Pacific region at Russell Investment Group, which manages about $150 billion. “At this time last year, the potential for Greece to exit the euro would’ve been a calamity for Europe, but a year makes a lot of difference, and I think markets are differentiating Greece from other economies.”

Greek Bailout

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.3 percent today after U.S. markets were closed yesterday for a public holiday. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index climbed 0.8 percent yesterday as euro-area finance ministers met in Brussels to discuss the terms of a 130 billion-euro ($172 billion) bailout for Greece. They also aim to begin a bond exchange with private investors to keep Greece from going bankrupt next month.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 12.5 percent this year through yesterday, compared with an 8.2 percent advance by the S&P 500 and a 9.7 percent rise by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 14.7 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 13.1 times for the S&P 500 and 11.1 times for the Stoxx 600.

The London Metal Exchange Index of prices for six industrial metals including copper and aluminum rose 0.7 percent yesterday. Crude for March delivery rose as much as $2.20 to $105.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest intraday price since May 5.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yoshiaki Nohara in Tokyo at ynohara1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Gentle at ngentle2@bloomberg.net

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