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Thursday, 30/03/2017 00:11AM
Global stocks end wretched 2008 with modest rally

World stocks brought down the curtain on a miserable year with modest gains Wednesday but 2008 will be remembered for key markets shedding half their worth as the global economy endured a disastrous slowdown.

Despite a number of bourses gaining some ground over the past few days, the overall picture for 2008 has been one of gloom as the worst economic crisis since the 1930s tore into investor confidence and battered equities.

In European trade, London rose 0.94 percent Wednesday but slid a massive 31 percent over the year. Paris ended the day flat and almost 43 percent lower during the past 12 months.

Wall Street reopens at 14:30 GMT for its final trading day of 2008.

“Equity markets are set to finish this rather disastrous year with something of a flourish,” said CMC Markets dealer Jimmy Yates.

“Whether this is Santa's rally or simply testament to the volatility that has characterized the year will doubtless be a point to debate in the months to come,” Yates added.

US stocks revved higher Tuesday after a government rescue announced for finance firm GMAC and its former parent General Motors boosted hopes for a recovery in the troubled US auto sector.

Wall Street's firmer showing gave a boost to Asian and European markets.

Frankfurt ended its year Tuesday, closing with a daily gain of 2.24 percent. During 2008, however, the German bourse shed a massive 40 percent - a pattern mirrored elsewhere.

By the close of trade Wednesday, Hong Kong and Singapore had almost halved in value over the year, Sydney lost more than 40 percent, Mumbai 52 percent and Shanghai nearly two-thirds - the steepest annual loss in the Chinese market's 18-year history.

Tokyo was 42.12 percent down and Seoul 40.73 percent when they closed for the year on Tuesday.

“We have not reached the bottom yet. The worst will come when investors start to sell their shares in panic this year,” Peter Lai, sales director of DBS Vickers in Hong Kong, told AFP.

Markets have been hammered by the world economic crisis, which was sparked by the collapse of the sub-prime, or high risk, mortgage market in the US. This led to the US government takeover of mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in September.

But shares went into a tailspin soon after following the failure of Wall Street banking icon Lehman Brothers under a mountain of debt. Giant insurer American International Group then had to be bailed out by Washington.

A US$700-billion rescue package for the ailing financial industry was unable to stop the rot as the US and other leading nations entered recession.

US stocks were ending 2008 on a positive note, as the GMAC lead allowed investors to look past data showing consumer confidence falling to an all-time survey low and further declines in US home prices.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 2.19 percent as a rally gathered momentum late on Tuesday. The US Treasury said late Monday it is injecting $5 billion into auto finance firm GMAC and lending another $1 billion to General Motors in a move to help stimulate auto loans to boost sales in the sagging sector.

“These developments will substantially ease the upward pressure that we have seen on auto loan borrowing spreads, and provide greater access to auto loan credit for American households,” said Brian Bethune at IHS Global Insight.

“The landmark deal... is indeed path-breaking in terms of the scale of the response of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to the economic and financial crisis that has enveloped the US economy.”

Most of the seven Gulf markets witnessed their worst year ever with Dubai shedding almost three quarters of its value and the Saudi market, the largest in the Arab world, slumping by more than half.

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