GLOBAL MARKETS-World stocks scale two-year highs; oil firm

* MSCI world equity index hits Sept 2008 highs

* Strong U.S. data and corporate outlook lift risky assets

* Oil near two-year high; euro stabilises after China

By Natsuko Waki

PARIS, Dec 23 (BestGrowthStock) – World stocks hit their highest
level since September 2008 on Thursday while oil held near a
two-year peak as favourable U.S. data reinforced expectations
economic growth will retain momentum into next year.

Wednesday’s upwardly revised data showing the U.S economy
expanded at 2.6 percent in the third quarter, coupled with
recent retail sales figures, pointed to firmer economic activity
in the world’s largest economy.

Stronger banking stocks helped the S&P 500 index (.SPX: ) hit
its highest level since the collapse of Lehman Brothers on
Wednesday, underpinning sentiment in Asia and Europe.

“The corporate picture still looks very bright, the trend
towards higher profits is going to continue and public policies
should remain shareholder-friendly,” said Henk Potts, equity
strategist at Barclays Wealth.

“In terms of the macro environment, we would expect most of
the economies to keep growing and that is a pretty powerful
mix.”
The MSCI world equity index (.MIWD00000PUS: ) was up 0.1
percent, having earlier hit 328.89, its highest since early
September 2008.

The index has gained nearly 10 percent this year.

The Thomson Reuters global stock index (.TRXFLDGLPU: ) rose
0.1 percent.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index (.FTEU3: ) was up slightly on the
day, having hit a 27-month peak earlier, while emerging stocks
(.MSCIEF: ) were steady. Tokyo was shut for a holiday.

U.S. stock futures (SPc1: ) were unchanged on the day,
indicating a steady start on Wall Street later.

U.S. crude oil (CLc1: ) stood at $90.44 a barrel, within half
a cent of the Wednesday peak that was the highest since October
2008.

Abnormally cold weather in the United States and Europe has
spurred the rally above $90, the latest leg in a more than 40
percent rise from a year low in May.

Bund futures (FGBLc1: ) were steady on the day.

The dollar (.DXY: ) fell 0.2 percent against a basket of major
currencies while the yen rose 0.7 percent to 82.96 per dollar
(JPY=: ) in a flow-driven, thin-liquidity trading.

However, a recent run of positive U.S. data and persistent
concerns about the euro zone debt crisis are raising
expectations that the dollar would trade on a firmer tone into
the new year.

“Broad-based dollar appreciation in 2011 is possible,
reflecting our optimism that the U.S. economy could be entering
a period of economic growth that surprises the financial
markets”, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ said in a note to
clients.

“Our profile for dollar strength for 2011 will show the
larger part of appreciation taking place in H1 2011.”

The euro steadied at $1.3100 (EUR=: ), drawing support from
comments out of China.

Beijing is willing to help countries in the euro zone return
to economic health and will support the International Monetary
Fund bailout package for the bloc, a Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman said on Thursday. [ID:nBJI002501]

The Jornal de Negocios daily reported that China was looking
to buy between 4 and 5 billion euros of Portuguese sovereign
debt to help the country ward off pressure in bond markets.

Financial markets showed no reaction to comments by North
Korea’s minister of armed forces who said its military was
prepared to wage a “holy war” against the South using its
nuclear deterrent after what he called Seoul’s attempt to
initiate conflict.

(Additional reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Ron Askew)

GLOBAL MARKETS-World stocks scale two-year highs; oil firm