(Mar 4): Stocks around the world chalked up a second straight month of gains in February. This means that after having suffered one of the worst losses since the end of the global financial crisis in late 2018, markets are now enjoying some of the strongest starts to a new year. The world’s most closely watched bellwether, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has rebounded some 20% from last year’s lows and is now less than 4% off its record high.

Late last year, markets were driven by extreme pessimism over the global economy. That has since been dialled back after the US Federal Reserve adopted a more dovish stance on future interest rate hikes. Indeed, many have now turned bullish, especially for emerging markets.

Chinese stocks, the worst-performing market in 2018, led the rally, with the Shanghai Composite index up almost 18% year to date. The gains were accompanied by a surge in trading volumes as well as margin loans as progress on the US-China trade talks bolstered investor confidence. President Donald Trump extended the March 1 deadline for a trade deal, delaying the previously announced tariff hike (from the prevailing 10% to 25%) on US$200 billion ($269.7 billion) worth of Chinese goods.

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