Stock markets in Europe and Asia were seeing out 2011 fairly positively yesterday, but many are still posting big declines for the year in the wake of Europe's debt crisis, a faltering US economy and signs that China's economy is no longer sizzling.
Markets have also been rocked by natural disasters, trading scandals, sharp fluctuations in commodity prices, and the up-and-down price of oil amid the political turmoil in the Arab world.
In Europe, the trading backdrop has been particularly grim, with many of the main markets posting their worst year since 2008. That's perhaps unsurprising, given that most of the financial world's attention has centred on the debt crisis, which has already seen three relatively small countries bailed out and is threatening a much-bigger country — Italy.
Trading in Europe yesterday was fairly quiet, with many traders using the opportunity to close out their books for the year — many markets were only trading for half the day.
The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed up 0.1 per cent at 5,572.28, meaning that it ended the year 5.6 per cent lower, while Germany's DAX ended 0.9 per cent higher at 5,898.35, a 14.7 per cent decline over the year.
The CAC-40 in France, which is trading normal hours, was 0.3 per cent higher at 3,138. Despite the rise, it's still looking like it will end the year around 17 per cent lower from where it started at 3,804.78.
With policymakers failing to convince markets that they can deal with the crisis and the Eurozone widely predicted to slip back into recession next year, the euro is ending 2011 just below the $1.30 mark, after falling to a 15-month low against the dollar on Thursday at $1.2857.
Focus on Italy
Despite all the debt problems afflicting the Eurozone, the euro has held up pretty well in 2011 — it started the year at $1.3345.
Much of the attention next year will centre on Italy, the Eurozone's third-largest economy.
Wall Street opened modestly lower but US stocks have performed much more solidly than their European and Asian counterparts, largely on the back of a strong year-end performance related to an upbeat run of US economic data.