World indices finish vintage year, more gains seen in 2014

Wall StreetU.S. stocks closed 2013 by setting record highs and world equity markets ended at six-year peaks on Tuesday. (Thinkstock image)

U.S. stocks closed 2013 by setting record highs and world equity markets ended at six-year peaks on Tuesday, while benchmark bond yields posted their first annual rise since 2009.

Ultra-easy monetary policies and an improving economic outlook worldwide led to a stellar year for stocks. Equity strategists see the gains continuing into 2014 as economic growth improves even as the Federal Reserve steadily trims its bond-buying stimulus.

"This has been a terrific year, with all the concerns we had in January proving unfounded, and with current economic growth giving us a strong outlook for 2013," said John Carey, portfolio manager at Pioneer Investment Management in Boston.

The S&P 500 benchmark ended its best year since 1997 with a 29 percent gain. More than 450 of the stocks in the index ended the year higher, the most since S&P started collecting that data in 1980. Japan's Nikkei ended the year up 56.7 percent and European shares gained 16 percent.

MSCI's all-country world equity index was up 0.22 percent at 408.33, its highest level since late 2007. It has gained 20 percent this year.

The Barclays U.S. Aggregate Index of investment-grade bonds ended with its worst year since 1994, as interest rates rose in anticipation of reduced Fed stimulus and higher-yielding stocks attracted more investment flows.

Assets favored by investors in economic downturns took a beating in 2013, with falling prices driving top-rated U.S. and German bond yields to near their highest levels in around two years and gold limping toward its worst annual performance in three decades, losing more than 27 percent.

The yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury note, which sets the standard for global borrowing costs, has risen to 3 percent from 1.75 percent at the start of the year, but is seen rising to only 3.35 percent in 2014. The 10-year note was yielding 3.02 percent on Tuesday.

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