Stocks inch ahead in thin year-end trade

Global stock prices inched ahead Monday in quiet year-end trade, with investors scooping up bargains as they brace for what will likely be a volatile 2009.
Shares in oil, gas and minerals were among the top gainers after global crude and copper prices ticked up. But volumes were thin, with many investors waiting on the sidelines until January.
Major Asian stock markets closed flat, with Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai all overcoming early losses to finish barely changed. European stock markets were firmer in early trade.
Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei index ended up a marginal 0.09 percent as shares in insurance firms soared on reports of a three-way merger to form the country's largest non-life insurer.
But dealers said there was no firm direction. The Tokyo market closes with a half-day session today and reopens on Jan. 5.
"Since we only have one more morning session tomorrow (today) before the market closes for this year, investors would not want to take positions before the long holidays," said Daisuke Uno of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.
Asian markets have tumbled this year as the global credit crisis saps up liquidity and drags down the world economy. The International Monetary Fund's top economist warned last week of a second Great Depression.
Some dealers doubted that global stock markets would have a clear direction until U.S. president-elect Barack Obama takes office in Jan. 20, with dealers hoping he can reinvigorate the ailing U.S. economy.
In the more immediate future, dealers were waiting for today's release in the United States of consumer confidence data for December.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see our market rise if U.S. consumer confidence data aren't worse than expected," Macquarie Private Wealth senior private client adviser Marcus Droga told Dow Jones Newswires in Sydney.
Sydney ended up 1.1 percent, while Hong Kong added one percent and Singapore was up 1.13 percent in late trade. But Taipei closed down 0.20 percent, while Bangkok and Mumbai were both down at midday.
Seoul closed marginally lower following an early sell-off after the central bank said South Korea's capital investment is expected to drop for the second consecutive year.
"While most investors remained on the sidelines after they closed their books for the year, local pension funds actively picked up stocks in the later session," said So Jang-ho, an analyst at Samsung Securities.
Shanghai also ended just slightly lower as steelmakers dragged down the market on concerns over weak corporate performances due to the global crisis.
"Investors' sentiment remains weak as they are still worrying about corporate earnings in the fourth quarter," said Wang Junqing, an analyst at Guosen Securities.

Updated : 2021-04-14 13:38 GMT+08:00