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Investment analysis

A quicker end to the war in Afghanistan than most had dared hope gave global markets fresh impetus to continue the post-September rally. Despite further global economic woes, all the major markets finished the week higher with the FTSE World Index ending up by 1.8 per cent.

In the US, equity markets broke through psychological important milestones midweek as the Dow Jones Industrial average topped 10,000 for the first time since early September and the Nasdaq Composite went above 2,000, a level last seen in August.

Economic data was mixed. The latest NAPM figures on US non-manufacturing sectors provided a particular shot in the arm, leaping from a four-year low of 40.6 in October to 51.3 in November, well above consensus estimates. Factory orders also grew by 7.1 per cent. However, November&#39s jobless data was much worse than expected – 331,000 US jobs were lost in the month and the unemployment rate is now at a six-year high of 5.7 per cent.

A technology-led rally sent European bourses higher on Tuesday, calling a halt to an eight-session losing streak. The bullish mood continued as European purchasing managers&#39 surveys showed that the slowdown in the service sectors was beginning to bottom out. After an aggressive 0.5 per cent cut in November, the European Central Bank, as expected, left rates unchanged.

In the UK, the FTSE 100 briefly breached the 5,400 level on Thursday but eased back on profit-taking and gloomy job data from the US. Economic news was mixed, with a steep 1.1 per cent decline in industrial production in October.

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