Holiday gains on the New York Stock Exchange helped drive an uptick in Asian stocks Wednesday
Holiday gains on the New York Stock Exchange helped drive an uptick in Asian stocks Wednesday AFP News

Global stocks mostly rose Wednesday as several more major markets returned from the Christmas holiday break as investors remained broadly optimistic in light of easing pressure from central banks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average led gains on Wall Street, advancing 0.3 percent to finish at another all-time high of 37,665.52.

While US indices returned to work on Tuesday, European markets were only back on Wednesday, with London leading the way as it closed 0.4 percent higher.

Hong Kong also returned from a long break to close 1.7 percent higher.

"The ongoing optimism surrounding the prospect of central banks initiating interest rate reductions in 2024, with multiple cuts expected next year, continues to propel shares higher," said Walid Koudmani, chief market analyst at XTB trading group.

Market sentiment has been largely positive since the Federal Reserve's most recent monetary policy meeting, when it indicated the rate-hike cycle could be nearing its end as global inflation slows.

"The prevailing sentiment suggests a 'risk-on' environment in US markets, with renewed optimism focused on anticipating swifter and earlier rate cuts," said Stephen Innes, managing partners at SPI Asset Management.

But Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank, warned that "the market optimism is overstretched" and that "the Fed will probably cut rates but not at the speed that's been currently priced in".

Global markets were also positively affected by the so-called "Santa Claus rally", which has historically seen stocks tick higher -- albeit at thinner volumes -- during the end-of-year holiday period.

"Once the Santa high fades, the hangover will hit," Ozkardeskaya said.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, oil markets reversed last week's gains, mainly owing to easing fears over disruption in the Red Sea after major shippers had rerouted vessels due to Huthi missile and drone attacks along the route.

On Wednesday, French shipping giant CMA-CGM resumed some transit through the waterway, days after Danish group Maersk announced it would return as a US-led naval coalition is now policing the maritime route against Yemeni rebel attacks.

New York - Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 37,656.52 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.1 percent at 4,781.58 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.2 percent at 15,099.18 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,724.95 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: FLAT at 7,571.82 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.2 percent at 16,742.07 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.2 percent at 4,528.38 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.1 percent at 33,681.24 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 1.7 percent at 16,624.84 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 2,914.61 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1109 from $1.1042 on Tuesday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 141.81 yen from 142.40 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2801 from $1.2725

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.75 pence from 86.77 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.9 percent at $74.11 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.8 percent at $79.65 per barrel