World stock markets are in sparkling form, hitting levels not seen for several years owing to investor optimism and robust corporate results, dealers say.
On Wall Street, the Nasdaq and Standard and Poor\'s 500 indices in the past two weeks have been performing at peaks previously reached in June 2001.
The Nikkei index on the Tokyo exchange closed Friday at its highest level in more than five years, while in Paris the CAC 40 and in Frankfurt the DAX hit their highest levels since 2002 on Friday.
Analysts point out that strong company results and broadly optimistic investor sentiment have given markets their momentum, but they underline that leading indices remain some way from the record levels registered in 2000 at the height of dotcom fever.
An analyst at Paris-based Oddo Securities, Pierre-Yves Gauthier, said that corporate results in Europe and elsewhere had been excellent this year.
\"Global economic growth reached a high level in 2005 after a very good 2004,\" he said.
\"This global growth has been achieved with high raw material costs because of strong demand, but some companies like the metals companies have been able to pass raw material costs onto their customers.\"
Referring to Europe, a broker at Deutsche Bank, Philippe Haniez, said that the economic recovery remained fragile, but \"markets are gaining from the latest strengthening of the dollar, the fall in a barrel of oil for several weeks and data on the state of the economy that are a lot more positive at the end of the year.\"
In Japan, economic data has showed that the economy is gradually pulling out of a damaging cycle of deflation, encouraging consumers to invest their savings in the stock market.
The Nikkei has risen by 35 percent since the start of the year.
Another explanation for the end-of-year rally, dealers point out, is that stock markets have a tendency to gather pace in December for technical reasons.
\"Some investment funds have statutory obligations to invest their remaining liquidity before December 31 and this forces them to buy stocks,\" said Haniez.
Gauthier, of Oddo Securities, also said that many stocks were still attractively valued, which was attracting investors to the stock market.
\"The price of shares compared with the profits is still low and financing costs for companies are excellent owing to very low interest rates,\" he said.
\"Excellent fundamentals as well as inexpensive money explain the strong gains of indices and these trends show no sign of changing next year.\"
Global stock markets have also been boosted by a rise in the number of mergers and acquisitions, as well as initial public offerings.