MARKETS WORLDWIDE SOAR U.S. gains pale in comparison


NEW YORK -- If the bull market on Wall Street has been notable, then the movement in markets around the globe has been remarkable.

Monthly indexes released yesterday by Morgan Stanley & Co., the New York investment bank, show that the U.S. market was up 6.6 percent during February -- strong performance, but in terms of the 20 largest world markets, better only than Canada (up 5.2 percent).

The overall average gain for major world markets was 10.6 percent in the past month -- in terms of dollars -- with the leading market, Austria, up 15.5 percent, followed by Italy (14.7 percent), Japan (12.6 percent), Spain (12.2 percent) and Belgium (10.5 percent).

The gains were spread throughout Europe, Scandinavia and the Far East. None of the major markets registered a decline. Euphoria for stocks was even more pronounced in a secondary Morgan Stanley index covering the smaller markets.

The leading Greek stock market gained 37.4 percent (in dollar terms), followed by Taiwan (26 percent) and Turkey (13.7 percent). Even the embattled Jordanian market eked out an increase, 2.4 percent.

The strong advance marks a reversal from the bleak second half of 1990, when the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait coincided with a pronounced decline in almost every major world stock market.

The skid ended as it began, moving inversely to the prospect of Iraq's continued occupation of Kuwait. When the coalition air war was

launched in mid-January, stock markets took off, and continued rising throughout the past month on heavy volume.

"People were anticipating the worst and taking positions accordingly," said William Rutherford of Touche Remnant, an international investment management firm. "When the results of the war were better than anticipated, they re

turned to the markets and that started feeding on itself."

Iraq's defeat alleviated specific concerns that oil prices could once again return to the $30- or $40-a-barrel level, said George Evans, a portfolio manager with Oppenheimer Management Corp.

Perhaps because of the inflationary implications, interest rates for every developed country have fallen since mid-January, a positive move for stock prices.

But the lower rates, and the prospects for greater stability and lower oil prices have yet to translate into real growth.

"Everyone is looking beyond the slowdown," said Sandor Cseh, head of Philadelphia-based Cseh International, a money management firm.

But Mr. Cseh, as well as a number of other analysts, question whether that is justified.

tTC "I thought they [world stock markets] would came back to Earth after the war ended and the euphoria was gone," said Nancy Langwiser, who is manager of the Lifetime Global Fund at Massachusetts Financial Services.

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