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Foreign stocks gain, too, despite myriad threats

Reuters

LONDON — US stocks are not alone in racing ahead this year. Many markets in Europe and Asia are trading at multi-year highs, too, in part because of Wall Street’s rally.

The advances in some places have been surprising, given paltry levels of economic growth around the world. Britain’s FTSE 100, for example, enjoyed its best January since 1989 with an increase of more than 6 percent even though the British economy has one foot in another recession.

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The FTSE’s advances continued in February, despite concerns that the European debt crisis was about to flare up again after a messy Italian election.

Many explanations have been given for 2013’s roaring start, notably the relief over a US budget deal that avoided sending the world’s largest economy over the fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts.

Other factors: The future of the euro appears more secure. There are rising hopes Asia will give global growth another lift. The slowdown in China seems to have leveled off. And a new government has made reviving Japan’s moribund economy its top priority.

But the world ‘‘is a fundamentally riskier place than consensus and the confident prognostications of politicians, analysts, and central bankers would have us believe,’’ said Mike Ingram, at BGC Partners in London. Markets face “a considerable amount of event risk’’ and could be heading for a longer-lasting downturn, he said.

Central banks responded to the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression by bathing economies in new money. This fresh liquidity has filtered back into markets since the low points of early 2009. But what happens when the taps are turned off? Some say the rally will crumble. Others say central banks will remain in crisis mode for a long time. Here’s how world indexes were doing as of Tuesday:

 Germany’s DAX is approaching its record high of 8,106 in 2007. It’s up about 12 percent over the past year.

 Britain’s FTSE 100 has pushed above 6,400 for the first time in five years. Since the Bank of England started pumping money into the economy in 2009, the index has raced ahead by around 90 percent. It’s still short of the peak of 6,930 in 2000.

 Greece’s main index more than doubled over the past few months to surpass 1,000 then fell back to 970. However, its peak above 5,000 looks a distant prospect and highlights the country’s fall over the past few years.

 Japan’s Nikkei 225 has shot to a five-year high above 11,500. Still, it is about half what it was in the 1990s.

 Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index is some 9,000 points off its historical high of nearly 32,000, hit in late 2007.

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