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Daily Briefing: Greece - light at the end of the tunnel?
June 16, 2017 / 7:54 AM / a month ago

Daily Briefing: Greece - light at the end of the tunnel?

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Greek pensioners shout slogans in front of the Parliament building during a demonstration against planned pension cuts in Athens, Greece, June 15, 2017.Costas Baltas

LONDON (Reuters) - Is there light at the end of the tunnel for Greece? The country's finance minister said there was after last night's deal with euro zone lenders, which will allow it to pay the next tranche of its debts and, crucially, offers some prospect of debt relief next year - conveniently well after Germany's elections in September.

Whether that will be enough to improve PM Alexis Tsipras' standing at home, where many Greeks have been plunged into poverty, is another matter. But for now, a summer standoff has been averted. The IMF is still not totally convinced by the Europeans' handling of the saga. It will stay on board for now but will not pay new money until there is agreement on how to treat Greece's debt mountain.

It looks as if one key element in the mix was a suggestion by new French President Emmanuel Macron to link the size of the debt relief to future Greek economic growth.

As feared, the death toll from the London tower block blaze looks set to rise sharply, with local media reports of 65 still missing. Police say they can only hope that the final toll won’t be in triple figures. As reports swirl of safety shortfalls in a building perched in one of the richest parts of London, the political dimension is mounting, too: PM Theresa May is under criticism for failing to meet the victims and London's Mayor Sadiq Khan is also feeling the heat. A rally planned for 1700 GMT tonight is calling for justice for those affected.

On an entirely different note, a new opinion survey on attitudes to Europe seems to confirm the view that the trials faced by others make us more grateful for what we've got. A study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center found that Europeans think much better of the EU now than they did a year ago when Britons voted to leave the bloc. There is no direct evidence to suggest this is linked to the political turmoil and growing signs of economic weakness which Britain has experienced since, but the long-running survey showed that support for the EU has surged 18 percentage points in both Germany and France, among others.

MARKETS AT 0655 GMT

Global shares are up slightly on Friday after a torrid week of tech stock tumbles, a Federal Reserve rate rise and data signalling that consumers who have kept the global economy running are feeling the pinch.

U.S. tech stocks fell again on Thursday, but much more modestly than earlier this week. That was enough to pull Wall Street’s main indices lower, although tech remains the strongest-performing group this year.

Asian shares are only slightly lower. Tokyo closed up 0.6 percent after the Bank of Japan left policy unchanged, as forecast, and Europe’s main national markets are expected to open higher.

Extensive damage is seen to the Grenfell Tower block which was destroyed in a disastrous fire, in north Kensington, West London, Britain June 16, 2017.Hannah McKay

Futures are up 0.2-0.5 percent but the STOXX 600 and the FTSE 100 indexes however are set to fall for the second week in a row, having both lost more than 1 percent so far this week.

After Thursday's sell-off, retailers could find support after Tesco released a first-quarter update that showed UK like-for-like sales growth of 2.3 percent that beat analyst expectations. That's the strongest quarterly sales performance for its home market in seven years.

The dollar is higher against its currency basket peers after some forecast-beating U.S. data soothed worries from weak retail sales and inflation numbers earlier in the week. The greenback is 0.4 percent stronger versus the yen, 0.1 percent weaker against the euro and down 0.2 percent versus sterling.

The early focus in euro zone government bond markets will be on Greece after it secured its latest last-minute deal with its creditors on Thursday. Yields are expected to fall. Still no debt relief, however, so the IMF offered a standby agreement of less than $2 billion.

Emerging market stocks were heading for biggest weekly fall of the year on Friday, with the day’s focus squarely on a meeting of Russia’s central bank following a slump in the rouble and its stock market in recent days.

Russian central bank meets, rouble and Russian stocks have been plunging in recent days, so they may cut rates by 25 bps rather than 50 bps as was expected.

Chinese stocks saw their first and biggest weekly fall since early May after mixed data from the economy and ahead of next week’s MSCI review which could see A-Shares added to its EM index. Asian EM currencies dip as dollar edges higher.

Watching Romania after government thrown into chaos.  

Oil is up but still close to six-month lows. Brent crude last up 18 cents a barrel at $47.10. Copper is heading for its biggest weekly fall in six and gold hit a three-week low of $1,251 an ounce on dollar strength.

Editing by Hugh Lawson

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