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Markets remain hopeful of Greek deal

Pan Pylas, AP Business Writer

From left, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Olli Rehn, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Finland's Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen share a word during a meeting of eurogroup finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. European Union officials will make a fresh try Tuesday to reaching a political accord on desperately needed bailout loans to Greece, an agreement that eluded them last week. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

LONDON (AP) -- The continuing saga of when Greece will get its next batch of bailout cash kept markets in check Wednesday, a day when much of Wall Street is packing up early for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Greece's partners in the group of 17 European Union countries that use the euro once again failed to agree a strategy that would have allowed them to release more money for the debt-crippled country. Though officials say a deal is close — the finance ministers reconvene on Monday — a few thorny issues still need to be ironed out.

The two main concerns appear to center on how to plug a Greek budget shortfall over the coming two years that has appeared because of the country's deeper-than-anticipated recession and how to get Greece's debt burden down. The International Monetary Fund wants it down to 120 percent of its economy by 2020 and has suggested that countries take a hit on their loans, an anathema to mighty Germany.

Despite the hurdles, the expectation in the markets is that Greece will eventually get its hands on an overdue €31.5 billion ($40 billion) loan payment that it needs to pay its bills.

"A deal will get done, it's just a matter of when," said Benjamin Reitzes, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.07 percent at 5,752 while Germany's DAX rose 0.06 percent to 7,184. The CAC-40 in France was 0.4 percent higher at 3,477.

Surprisingly, Greek shares outperformed their peers in Europe, with the main index in Athens up 1.1 percent — a sign that investors think the country will get the money along with the means to reduce the debt burden.

The euro recovered its poise after an initial sell-off when news emerged of the latest failure. It was trading 0.06 percent higher on the day at $1.2818.

U.S. stocks opened in a subdued mood, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 0.2 percent at 12,822 and the broader S&P 500 index 0.06 percent higher at 1,388.

Trading on Wall Street will likely drop off a cliff through the day ahead of the Thanksgiving rush.

"Volumes are proving thin as investors are opting to start their holidays a day early," said Shavaz Dhalla, a financial trader at Spreadex.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.9 percent to close at 9,222.52, with export shares enjoying the benefits of a weakened yen. The dollar was up a further 0.4 percent at 82.17 yen.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.4 percent to 21,524.36. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.1 percent to 2,030.32 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index advanced 1.1 percent to 808.

In the oil markets, the focus was on a diplomatic push to broker a cease-fire in Gaza intensified and what impact a bus bomb blast in Tel Aviv will have on those efforts. Oil prices regained some of the ground lost the day before, with the benchmark rate up 19 cents at $86.94 a barrel.