GLOBAL equity markets have fared well so far this year, with Asian bourses being the major winners, thanks to the influx of foreign investment to the region.
Stock markets around the world have turned around amid growing optimism in the world economy and on expectations of external uncertainties subsiding.
The rosy economic prospects lured back investment funds that had sought shelter in fixed-income instruments such as bonds earlier this year. The improved sentiment on Wall Street spilled over into Asia and Europe.
The Dow Jones has gained 1,038 points to 9,380 (on Monday), with certain investors betting on a ‘‘jobless recovery’’ in America, although some argue that recovery remains patchy.
The Nasdaq Index has jumped nearly 36% to 1,824 points since the start of the year. The sharp rise of the tech-laden index was pinned on hopes of higher demand in the semiconductor industry, which had just climbed out of a severe downturn.
Among the emerging markets in Asia, Bangkok and Jakarta were considered star performers. The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) Index has soared 65% to 579 points, and the Jakarta Composite Index 41% to 598 points, year-to-date.
The huge population in these two countries have convinced investors that their domestic demand, particularly private consumption, is sufficient to drive economic growth besides export.
Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, though hard hit by the outbreak of SARS, managed to recover substantially.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index has gained 20% to 11,230 points since the beginning of the year. The index had, in fact, rebounded 33% from its year's low of 8,418 in late April, although the special administrative region is suffering from a high unemployment rate.
Singapore's Straits Times Index increased 22% to 1,631 points, after hitting a low of 1,215 points.
The Taiwan Weighted Index was up 26% to 5,611 points, mainly on rising interest in tech stocks.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Index rose 17.3% to 10,219 points year-to-date. The fluctuation of the yen against the US dollar has somewhat deterred the movement of the Japanese market.
Economists are concerned that the strengthening yen against the greenback may dash the slim hopes the world's second largest economy would be out of recession soon.
In Europe, gains in the major in- dices were less impressive than many in Asia because the continent is experiencing relatively weak economic growth. There are also worries that the firm euro against the US dollar would stem the little economic growth there.
Frankfurt's Xetra DAX Index, the best performer, chalked up 14% to 3,323, while the FTSE Index inched up 5.2% to 4,143 and CAC 40 nearly 4% to 3,189.