World Bulletin / News Desk
Angela Merkel reassured Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Friday that she wanted his country to stay in the euro zone, but gave no sign of ceding to his pleas for more time to meet the tough terms of Athens' international bailout.
Samaras, who made clear he was asking Berlin and Paris for more "air" to implement the reforms rather than going cap in hand for more cash, promised to get results and to narrow Greece's "fiscal deficit and the deficit in confidence".
"We're not asking for more money. We're asking for breaths of air in this dive we are taking," Samaras told a joint news conference with Merkel.
But the most he got from the German chancellor was a promise "that we will not make premature judgments but will await reliable evidence", by which she meant the "troika" report by Greece's international creditors due this autumn.
Samaras is likely to get much the same response from French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Saturday. Hollande and Merkel coordinated their stance on Greece over dinner in Berlin on Thursday evening.
Trying to emulate the "Merkozy" partnership under Hollande's predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative Merkel and the Socialist French president showed a united front, insisting Greece must meet its targets before any new discussion of terms.
Merkel stuck doggedly on Friday to her policy of deferring to the troika report from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, though she did say that she and Hollande were in no doubt they wanted Greece to stay in the single currency.
"Greece is part of the euro zone and I want Greece to remain part of the euro zone," Merkel said.
European shares and the euro weakened on Merkel's cautious response to Samaras and fading hopes of ECB action to prop up the bonds of struggling euro zone countries.
NO RENEGOTIATION OF TERMS
In a chilly welcome for Samaras in Berlin, Merkel's parliamentary leader Volker Kauder said "neither the time nor the content can be renegotiated" and added for good measure that a Greek exit "would be no problem for the euro".
One German paper said the finance ministry was studying the impact of a Greek exit while the populist daily Bild wanted the Greek leader to make a personal promise not to short change German taxpayers.
"Sign here, Herr Samaras!" said the paper, which like much of the German media has been taking a tough line on Greece.
The Greek prime minister complained about such media coverage, telling the news conference that this "cacophony" about his country leaving the euro made it impossible to launch the privatisations needed to restore fiscal balance in Greece.
"Would any business invest in euros in something if he thinks he will get back drachmas? Of course not," said Samaras.
Merkel said she reads the Greek press every day to see how the austerity measures she champions are received, but added that she could not do anything about German media coverage.
Their meeting follows a brief period of market optimism that Europe - and particularly the ECB - will finally come up with decisive action in a busy month of euro diplomacy in September to resolve the sovereign debt crisis.
With sources now saying Spain may be on the brink of a sovereign bailout as well, after a 100 billion-euro deal to help its banking sector, Europe and the IMF are keen to stress the importance of strict conditions for aid.
Some of Merkel's conservatives have signalled this week that they might envisage alleviating the interest rates or maturities on Greece's emergency loans if the "troika" mission finds that Athens is respecting the main lines of the deal.
But German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has taken a tough line on Greece this week and his spokesman pointedly said a small clause in the Greek bailout deal apparently allowing more time for reform targets in the case of a worse-than-expected recession was "not legally binding".
Volatility eased as traders focused on the world economy and corporate earnings after a week dominated by the dramatic spike in tensions over North Korea, which triggered a global sell-off before prices bounced back Monday.
Investors greeted the more conciliatory tone after US stocks dropped three days in a row last week on President Donald Trump's vow of "fire and fury" if North Korea continued to pursue its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The ultra-conservative kingdom has moved to diversify its traditionally oil-dependent economy following a sharp fall in crude prices.
In its monthly report on the global oil market, the International Energy Agency said, however, that it believes the supply glut is easing, partly because demand is growing faster.
US stocks have been in retreat since President Donald Trump Tuesday issued a fiery warning to North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
The move by one of Japan's best-known firms greatly reduces the chance of an embarrassing delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE).
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index weakened by 0.5 percent to 7,503.39 points.
The approval by the European Commission comes just over two months after the European Central Bank -- which took on the role of the eurozone's banking supervisor in 2014 -- allowed the sale to go ahead for a symbolic fee of one euro.
BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total have all published results in recent days, showing they pocketed $23 billion in net profit in the first half fo the year.
Higher cereal, sugar and dairy prices pushed food price index by 10.2 percent annually in July
HSBC was also a big riser, gaining three percent at £7.65 ($10, 8.5 euros) in late morning trade after the British banking giant announced a share buyback plan alongside a rise in first-half profits.
Both main crude contracts made strong gains, with WTI testing $50 a barrel for the first time since late May and Brent heading towards $53, while mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto saw their share price rise as commodities strengthened.