Stock markets usher in New Year with big gains

Trade deal optimism is helping stock prices

Global stock markets powered ahead on Thursday as investors welcomed 2020 with a raft of gains after China's central bank announced fresh stimulus.

Asian stocks kicked off the New Year on the front foot, with most rallying out of the blocks on lingering trade optimism and the stimulus news.

Europe also shone as investors remain upbeat about the global outlook after Washington and Beijing finally reached a partial trade agreement to de-escalate their trade conflict.

Wall Street joined the global trend, with all three major US indices rocketing to fresh records.

Some Brexit uncertainty has meanwhile been removed with Britain set to leave the European Union on January 31, but the pound still slipped after news that Britain's manufacturing activity slumped in December for the eighth month in a row.

- 'Wasting little time' -

"2019 was a good year on the whole for stock markets and they seem to be wasting little time in attempting to push higher again with the bourses following the lead of their Asian peers," said XTB analyst David Cheetham.

"Expectations that a 'Phase One' trade deal between the US and China will be signed in less than two weeks have boosted sentiment but the main driving force appears to be the announcement of a further easing of monetary policy from China's central bank."

However, geopolitical worries resurfaced following a warning from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that moratoriums on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests had ended, with talks with the United States going nowhere.

Shanghai and Hong Kong led gains after the People's Bank of China said it would lower the amount of cash lenders must keep in reserve, freeing up more than $100 billion for loans to small businesses.

The move comes as leaders try to kick start growth in the world's number two economy, which is running at its weakest for almost three decades.

- 'Not suddenly ok' -

Prices also won support after Donald Trump said New Year's Eve that the mini China-US trade deal will be signed off in Washington on January 15, and he will later travel to Beijing for the next phase of talks.

The signing will smooth concerns that the pact could suffer a last-minute collapse, which has niggled some traders.

But some analysts warned that investors should not expect the stock market party to go on forever.

"There's plenty of reason to be more optimistic heading into 2020 but then, there's also plenty of reason for caution too," said Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst at Oanda.

"Everything is not suddenly okay because the US and China are about to sign a phase one trade deal, or because the UK and EU are preparing to discuss the future relationship rather than the divorce. It could be another turbulent year with many surprises along the way," he said.

- Key figures around 2140 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 1.2 percent at 28,868.80 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.8 percent at 3,257.85 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 1.3 percent at 9,092.19 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.8 percent at 7,604.30 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 1.0 percent at 13,385.93 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 1.1 percent at 6,041.50 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.3 percent at 3,793.24 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 1.3 percent at 28,543.52 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 1.2 percent at 3,085.20 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Closed for a public holiday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3139 from $1.3257 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 85.02 pence from 84.58 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1172 from $1.1213

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.54 from 108.61 yen

Brent Crude: UP 0.4 percent at $66.25 per barrel (close)

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.2 percent at $61.18 per barrel (close)

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