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Markets offer mixed cocktail at year end

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 - 02:22

It began without much fizz, but goes out with a bang - at least for Asian stock markets celebrating stellar gains along with their US peers. In Europe, though, there's less of a party mood, as 2014 closes. David Pollard reports.

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Even as Europe still traded, the other side of the world lit the touchpaper on 2015. These fireworks in Sydney sparking a wave of celebration through Australia and onward to Asia. And Asian markets do have something to celebrate. Chinese stocks closed the year nearly 50 per cent up on where they started it. Tokyo too has seen healthy gains. It already finished trading on Tuesday - with a gain of around eight per cent on the year. To the delight of its stock exchange chief, Atsushi Saito. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) DIRECTOR AND REPRESENTATIVE EXECUTIVE OFFICER, JAPAN EXCHANGE GROUP INC, ATSUSHI SAITO, SAYING: "The Tokyo Stock Exchange has gained the most among those of developed countries including New York in the U.S., stocks in the U.K. or Germany. In that, I believe we had a very blessed year." European share markets were still searching for blessings to count. As was Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras - Greece prompting many traders to revisit old worries with new concerns over the impact of the forthcoming election there. Elsewhere, there was talk of improvement - Italy's economy minister Pier Carlo Padoan quoted as saying recent data showed Italy's slowdown had ended. Not everyone agrees, says IG's market analyst, Alastair McCaig. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALASTAIR MCCAIG, MARKET ANALYST, IG, SAYING: ''You do feel that Italy have had to focus too much on political wranglings as much as anything else, rather than getting their own house in order. I think these current figures maybe are just a short-term respite rather than necessarily a turn in sentiment.'' The numbers tell their own story. Across the board, European shares are up three and half per cent on the year. But Greek stocks are down around 30 per cent. Crude oil has lost nearly half its value. And Russia ended the year with a 43 per cent loss in the rouble - plus a warning from Angela Merkel in her New Year speech over Ukraine. (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL SAYING: "We want security in Europe together with Russia, not against Russia. But it is also without a doubt that Europe will not allow the law of the jungle, for Russia to abuse human rights." The big winner: European bonds, US stocks - and the US dollar. It's up nearly 13 per cent - its biggest yearly gain since 2005. And with the prospect of Fed tightening, set for more. Meaning that for the greenback at least, it could be a happy New Year.

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Markets offer mixed cocktail at year end

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 - 02:22