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Euro Gains as Greek Concerns Ease; Copper, Mining Stocks Rise

March 29 (Bloomberg) — The euro strengthened and the yen weakened on speculation economic confidence in Europe will improve. Gains in copper drove Asian mining companies higher.

The euro rose to 124.62 yen at 1:10 p.m. in Tokyo from 124.06 yen in New York on March 26. Copper for delivery in three months in London gained 1.6 percent to $7,635 a metric ton as inventories slid. China’s Shanghai Composite Index rose 2.1 percent to the highest in more than two months. A gauge of material producers on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.5 percent. Standard & Poor’s 500 futures advanced 0.2 percent.

Investors put more money into higher-yielding assets before a report today that’s forecast to show European economic confidence rose to the highest level since June 2008. Sentiment also improved after the European Union and the International Monetary Fund pledged to help Greece finance its budget deficit. The MSCI World Index has gained 2.2 percent this quarter, erasing a 6.5 percent decline, as the global economy recovered.

“Growth is starting to look more and more entrenched,” said Nader Naeimi, an investment strategist in Sydney at AMP Capital Investors, which oversees $90 billion. “Investors are looking for the recovery to turn into an outright expansion.”

The dollar traded at 92.75 yen from 92.52 yen. It touched 92.96 yen on March 25, the highest since Jan. 8. The euro strengthened against the dollar for a second day, bringing its decline for the quarter to 6.2 percent, the most since the three months ended Sept. 30, 2008.

European Confidence

An index of executive and consumer sentiment in the 16 nations using the euro rose to 97.1 this month from 95.9 in February, according to the median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg News survey. The European Commission in Brussels is scheduled to release the data today.

Australia’s currency strengthened 0.5 percent to 90.82 U.S. cents, and 0.7 percent to 84.231 yen. Australian retail sales rose 0.3 percent in February, after gaining 1.2 percent the previous month, according to the median forecast of 19 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.

Interest rates may need to be increased further to contain inflation, Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens said in an interview with Australia’s Channel Seven broadcast today. The bank has raised rates at four of its past five meetings.

“Retail trade is really the indicator of the degree to which interest-rate hikes are starting to affect the consumer,” said Amy Auster, head of foreign-exchange and international economics research at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Melbourne.

Copper Climbs

Copper futures gained as stockpiles monitored by the London Metal Exchange dropped on March 26 to the lowest level since Jan. 11. Nickel rose 3 percent to $24,300 a ton and aluminum advanced 1.1 percent. Oil futures rose as much 0.7 percent to $81.25 a barrel in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, gained 0.5 percent to A$43.50 in Sydney. Jiangxi Copper Co. climbed 1.9 percent to HK$16.88 in Hong Kong, where the Hang Seng Index increased 0.8 percent.

China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., Asia’s biggest oil refiner that’s also known as Sinopec, gained 2.5 percent in Shanghai trading after 2009 earnings doubled. China Construction Bank Corp., the country’s second-largest bank, advanced 2.2 percent in Shanghai after it said fourth-quarter profit more than doubled.

Dividend Rights

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average lost 0.2 percent, led by companies trading without the rights to their latest dividends as the end of the fiscal year approaches. Tokyo Gas Co., a gas utility, and Eisai Co., a drugmaker, dropped more than 1 percent.

“Japanese shares are falling temporarily because they are ex-rights, although the market has been on an upward trend supported by strong demand from Asia,” said Akio Yoshino, chief economist at Societe Generale Asset Management (Japan) Inc., which manages the equivalent of $17 billion.

Five stocks advanced for every four that declined on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, which gained 0.2 percent to 124.69.