Global stock markets were mixed yesterday on the last trading day of the year and they turned in heavy losses for the year after Europe’s debt crisis and natural disasters battered a struggling global economy.
Japan’s benchmark hit its lowest year-end close in 29 years.
Benchmark oil hovered below US$100 a barrel and the US dollar weakened against the yen, but rose against the euro.
Asian traders recorded gains for the day, but markets in Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong ended the year with double-digit losses.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index, after three straight days of losses, rose 0.67 percent to 8,455.35, but it was the lowest end-of-year close since 1982. China’s benchmark gained 1.91 percent to close at 2,199.42 — still, a 21.68 percent loss for the year. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained 0.2 percent to close at 18,434.39 — a precipitous slide of 19.7 percent from a year ago.
European shares were steady or slightly down in early trading. Britain’s FTSE-100 lost 0.2 percent at 5,555.92. Germany’s DAX was marginally down at 5,846.35 and France’s CAC-40 was nearly unchanged at 3,127.34.
Wall Street appeared headed for a lower closing, with the Dow Jones Industrial Futures down 0.2 percent at 12,194 and S&P 500 Futures slipping 0.2 percent to 1,255.40.
In other markets, Singapore’s Straits Times Index closed down 0.99 percent at 2,646.35 — a 17.5 percent dive for the year. Australia’s benchmark S&P ASX-200 ended the year at 4,140.4 — down 0.4 percent on the day and 14.5 percent lower for the year.
Taipei closed flat at 7,072.08. Wellington rose 0.88 percent to 3,274.71, Kuala Lumpur rose 1.60 percent to 1,530.73 and Jakarta gained 0.35 percent to 3,821.99.
Seoul was closed yesterday for a public holiday. A day earlier, South Korea’s benchmark KOSPI ended at 1,825.74 — 0.03 percent down on its last trading session of the year.
Analysts said global stocks tumbled in lockstep, suffering from the effects of natural disasters, a wobbly recovery in the US and an escalating European debt crisis that has resisted repeated measures taken by the region’s governments and financial institutions.
“The big reason is Europe. Europe tried to muddle through without a real solution. They can save a small country like Greece, but they cannot save a big country like Italy. Two trillion euros in foreign debt — nobody in the world has that kind of money,” said Francis Lun (藺常念), managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong. “Europe will enter a lost decade, a decade of no solutions and no growth. Maybe except in Germany, their machinery is still selling.”
The single currency, battered by a eurozone debt crisis that shows no signs of easing its stranglehold over market sentiment, remained under pressure, although it was off the 15-month lows against the US dollar that it hit on Thursday.
On Thursday, the euro tumbled to US$1.2858 — its lowest level since Sept, 14 last year — before rebounding on the brighter US economic data. In early European trade yesterday it bought US$1.2914.
The unit also eased to ￥100.20 in Tokyo from ￥100.61 in New York — sitting at lows not seen for more than a decade.
The US dollar bought ￥77.56, compared with ￥77.62.
Meanwhile, benchmark crude for February delivery fell US$0.28 to US$99.37 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added US$0.29 to settle at US$99.65 in New York on Thursday.