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The best year financial markets have ever had?

80346 Helge Larsen/PI-redaktør 22/12 2019 14:22

LONDON (Reuters) - "For all the angst about trade wars, geopolitics and a sputtering and overly indebted global economy, 2019 might just be the best year investors have ever had.

The numbers are staggering. Global stocks have piled on more than $10 trillion, bonds have been on fire, oil has surged almost 25%, former crisis spots Greece and Ukraine have top-performed, and even gold has sparkled.

Wall Street .SPX and MSCI's near 50-country world index .MIWD00000PUS have both stormed to record highs after 30% and 24% leaps. Europe, Japan, China and Brazil are all up at least 20% in dollar terms too. Not exactly shoddy.

A mirror image of 2018, when almost everything fell? Perhaps. But there have been a couple of important drivers.

One was China showing it was serious about stimulus for its $14 trillion economy. The other was the screeching change of direction by the world's top central banks, led by the Federal Reserve, which cut U.S. interest rates for the first time since the financial crisis more than a decade earlier.

"Whereas a year ago the Fed was raising rates and earnings were rolling over, this year you have felt the Fed has been on your side," said James Clunie, who manages asset firm Jupiter's Absolute Return Fund.

"They are willing to do QE4 at a stock market (record) high, which is extraordinary," he added, referring to Fed efforts to bring down a spike in money market rates that some suggest could presage a fourth round of quantitative easing asset purchases".

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