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HONG KONG, Nov 21 AFP

November 21 2012, 7:50PM

The euro recovered from an afternoon sell-off in Asian trade on Wednesday while shares ended mixed after eurozone finance chiefs said they had failed to agree on a deal to unlock crucial bailout cash for Greece.

Ministers said in a statement at the end of talks in Brussels that ended in the small hours that they would meet again next Monday "for further technical work on some elements of the package".

The news sent the euro diving from recent highs against the yen, while it also lost almost a US cent from its intra-day peak against the dollar although the unit mostly recovered towards the end of Asian trade.

In Tokyo the single currency bought $1.2760 and 104.72 yen towards the end of trade, after hitting $1.2820 and 105.07 yen ahead of the announcement.

It had finished in New York Tuesday at $1.2818 and 104.70 yen.

The dollar climbed to a seven-month high of 82.05 yen, from 81.67 yen in New York.

Traders were left disappointed as they had been buying the euro on expectations an agreement would be made in Brussels, while Jean-Claude Juncker, who presides over the Eurogroup has said there were "good chances of an agreement".

But the meeting ended with a statement saying only that they "made progress in identifying a consistent package of credible initiatives aimed at making a further substantial contribution to the sustainability of Greek ... debt".

"It was progress but we have to do a little bit more," International Monetary Fund (IMF) boss Christine Lagarde told reporters as she left the meeting.

Later, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici looked to soothe worries by telling Europe 1 radio that ministers "are a whisker away from a deal and I am very confident that we will reach one".

The major sticking point had been whether to give Greece, which is in desperate need of the $40 billion handout, an extra two years to arrive at a point where it can raise its own funds.

Juncker had called for that option but Lagarde very publicly disagreed.

Asian markets were also hit by the news, with earlier big gains pared back or wiped out completely.

Tokyo closed up 0.87 per cent, or 79.88 points to 9,222.52, Sydney fell 0.37 per cent, or 16.2 points, to close at 4,369.5, while Seoul lost 0.32 per cent, or 6.14 points, to end at 1,884.04.

But Hong Kong ended much higher as the initial shock wore off. The index surged 1.39 per cent, or 296.08 points, to 21,524.36, while Shanghai, which slumped to a four-year low intra-day, bounced back to close 1.07 per cent higher, adding 21.40 points to 2,030.32.

Investors had been buoyed by confidence the United States will avoid a fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts and that Greece will get its bailout, while Tokyo's climb was fuelled by a weaker yen.

The yen had been under pressure after the Bank of Japan held off further monetary easing on Tuesday but signalled fresh action could be in the pipeline after saying the economy remained weak.

The currency has weakened since last week, when the man likely to become prime minister after next month's general election said he would push for unlimited loosening monetary policy by the central bank.

There was more gloom for the Japanese economy on Wednesday as finance ministry data showed October's trade deficit nearly doubled to 549 billion yen ($6.7 billion) from a year ago, coming on top of weakening factory output.

On Wall Street, the three main indexes all ended flat on weak corporate news.

However, there was support from the Commerce Department, which said home construction rose again in October following September's strong surge, a further sign of recovery in the crucial housing market.

Housing starts rose 3.6 per cent from October, surprising analysts who had expected a fall after September's jump.

Oil prices also saw their earlier rises clipped before rising again. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January, were up 26 cents at $87.01 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for January delivery added 32 cents to $110.15.

Gold was at $1,724.99 at 0840 GMT (1940 AEDT) compared with $1,733.45 late on Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei fell 0.80 per cent, or 57.28 points, to 7,088.49.

Hon Hai Precision slid 0.89 per cent to Tw$89.1 while TSMC was 0.11 per cent higher at Tw$90.5.

-- Manila closed 0.61 per cent higher, adding 33.60 points to 5,534.18.

Banco de Oro Unibank was up 1.32 per cent to 69.20 pesos while Empire East Land Inc. rose 3.26 per cent to 95 centavos.

-- Wellington closed flat, edging down 1.74 points to 3,971.23.

Telecom fell 1.7 per cent to NZ$2.34 while Fletcher Building gained 1.1 per cent to NZ$7.73.

By Danny McCord