World stocks close out 2019 with robust gains
World stocks closed out a notably profitable year, with Wall Street recording its best annual performances since 2013, boosted by hopes for a US-China trade deal.
New York rallied into the close on Dec. 31, turning positive for the day and leaving the broad-based S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq up 29 percent and 35 percent respectively for 2019, the best showings in six years.
Key European markets showed increases of 25 percent or more for the year, partly thanks to late surges on receding recession fears and easing China-U.S. trade war tensions.
Brexit-hit London, however, trailed its peers with a 12 percent annual rise, less than half the percentage increase managed by Paris, Frankfurt and Milan.
Earlier on Dec. 31 as U.S. markets were about to open, President Donald Trump tweeted that a partial trade deal with China would be signed in Washington on Jan. 15, ending some of the uncertainty about efforts to cement the deal announced earlier this month.
Quincy Krosby of Prudential Financial said that U.S-China detente could help decide the direction of the global economy next year.
“Much of the enthusiasm in the market is based on the idea that global growth is going to begin to accelerate, albeit slowly,” she said.
“The question will be, do we actually see positive growth, especially in China?”
Demand in China is crucial to chances for renewed growth in global trade, while the China trade agreement could see U.S. corporations begin investing again after a year when corporate capital spending stagnated worryingly, according to Krosby.
“While market volumes are predictably light, investors continue to strike a year-end cautionary tone as December optimism is gradually giving way to 2020’s uncertainty,” Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader, said in a client note.
Asian investors were also watching for significant policy announcements early in the New Year.
In a New Year’s speech on Jan. 1, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un struck a decisively militaristic tone, warning of a new strategic weapon and “shocking” action.
Analysts said all eyes were on nuclear-armed Pyongyang’s threat of a “new way” after its end-of-year deadline for sanctions relief from the United States.
Elsewhere, oil prices slid despite reports Iran had seized a vessel suspected of smuggling fuel near the Strait of Hormuz - a chokepoint for a third of the world’s seaborne oil.
Over the year, the price of Brent North Sea crude jumped by almost one quarter and the New York benchmark contract WTI soared more than one third in value, helped by tighter supply.
The pound finished a volatile year with gains on Dec. 31 against the dollar and euro.