Asian shares hit their highest level in more than five months on Wednesday and the euro hovered close to an 8-week high as investors kept hopes alive for an agreement on details of a new Greek bailout package despite further delays.

Financial spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and France's CAC-40 to open about 0.2-0.3 percent higher.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan, after a slow start, rose 0.9 percent to its highest in more than five months. The rise followed solid U.S. stocks overnight, which saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average touch its highest in 3 years and nine months, underlined by improved sentiment on recent above-forecast economic figures.

The Asian index has risen 13 percent this year, outpacing a 7 percent rise for Wall Street's S&P 500, but has been treading water much of this week as Greek talks dragged on.

Japan's Nikkei rose to a three-month high above 9,000 and closed up 1.1 percent, buoyed by a better-than-expected profit outlook from Toyota Motor Corp.

It's really a reaction in terms of the better turn in the U.S. markets, said Guy Stear, head of research with Societe Generale in Hong Kong.

While the Greece deal was postponed, markets may be focusing on the flip side of the issue -- pressures on the European Central Bank to be more involved in helping break the deadlock over the bailout plan.

There are signs that the ECB may be willing to accept some kind of haircuts on its Greek debt holdings, which would be more like a crystallization of the fact that there are gains which have been made by the fact that these bonds were bought well under par, Stear said.

Such expectations have made markets somewhat optimistic that it was less likely that Greece will default, he said.

ECB sources say the bank paid 38 billion euros for its Greek bonds, 12 billion euros below their 50 billion euro face value, and that difference would roughly match what is needed to plug a recently opened up shortfall in Greece's debt deal, analysts say. The ECB could use the profits in a way that won't breach a ban on it directly financing governments.


Euro zone in graphics



The euro stood at $1.3267, after briefly hitting an 8-week high of $1.32753 on Wednesday.

Asian credit markets firmed a tad, with the spreads on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment grade index tightening by a couple of basis points.

While most market players believe Greece is close to a deal, politicians in Athens have yet to sign off on painful austerity measures that are a condition of a second bailout package. They have again pushed back the deadline for agreement to Wednesday.

Failure to secure the 130 billion euro rescue package could push Greece into a chaotic default and threaten the stability of the entire euro zone.

Anxiety over the progress of the Greek talks took the shine off the single currency.

There seems to be a lot of complacency in the market, said Rob Ryan, a strategist at BNP Paribas in Singapore. How long can you give the process the benefit of the doubt?

In commodity markets, U.S. crude remained supported by an unplanned outage at a Canadian oil sands plant, and gold clung to the previous session's gains, which had been driven by a weaker dollar.

U.S. crude rose 0.6 percent to $98.98 a barrel, while spot gold was virtually unchanged around $1,747 an ounce.

London copper gained 1 percent to $8,567 a tonne, after two straight days of losses.

If Greece were to agree on everything right away, I don't think it would solve everything because they will still have to implement the measures, said Jeremy Friesen, commodity strategist at Societe Generale in Hong Kong.

There are plenty of land mines left, he said.

(Additional reporting by Cecile Lefort in Sydney and Alex Richardson and Ruun Shen in Singapore)