World stocks close out 2019 with robust gains

For Wall Street, 2019 was a year to remember

World stocks on Tuesday 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, 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-US 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 Tuesday as US markets were about to open, President Donald Trump tweeted that a partial trade deal with China would be signed in Washington on January 15, ending some of the uncertainty about efforts to cement the deal announced earlier this month.

Quincy Krosby of Prudential Financial told AFP the US-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 US corporations begin investing again after a year when corporate capital spending stagnated worryingly, according to Krosby.

- 'Cautionary tone' -

Asian stock markets closed mainly lower on Tuesday, with Hong Kong ending a half-day of trading almost 0.5 percent down, although the bourse rallied more than seven percent in December. Tokyo was shut for a public holiday.

"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 Wednesday, 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.

An address by China's President Xi Jinping will be followed closely by the markets as well.

Elsewhere Tuesday, 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 Tuesday against the dollar and euro.

- Key figures around 2130 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 28,538.24 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.3 percent at 3,230.76 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.3 percent at 8,972.60 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.6 percent at 7,542.44 points (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.1 percent at 5,978.06 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5 percent at 28,189.75 (close)

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3248 from $1.3113 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.65 pence from 85.40 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1214 from $1.1199

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.66 from 108.88 yen

Brent Crude: DOWN 1 percent at $66.0 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1 percent at $61.06

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