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US & Japanese Stocks Soar in 2013

U. S. and Japanese stock markets posted strong gains in 2013, as investors were encouraged by central bank efforts to make it easier to buy homes, equipment and other goods by pushing down interest rates and promising to keep them there for a while.

Japan's Nikkei was up 57 percent in 2013, its best performance in decades. In the United States, the S&P 500 ended the year of trading with a nearly 30 percent gain. The Dow was up 27 percent and the NASDAQ rose 38 percent.

Nick Ventura of Ventura Wealth Management in New Jersey calls Japan's action an unprecedented "global gamble" that has worked, at least so far.

In 2013, the United States saw modest improvements in growth, housing prices and the unemployment rate. Ventura says the improving economy meant fewer wild swings in prices and fewer worried investors.

"Every time there was the slightest pullback in stock prices it was rewarded with a fresh round of buying. So there is a growing confidence in the U.S. recovery and I think that's what really perked up the U.S. economy."

A study published Tuesday by the Boston investment firm State Street shows a significant improvement in investor confidence between November and December. That growing confidence apparently is making investors more willing to take modest risks and buy some kinds of stocks.

The Wall Street Journal reports investors have been shunning complex strategies and are simply seeking stocks with low prices and strong earning potential.

Meanwhile, The Financial Times reports that investments thought to offer a safe haven for money in troubled economic times, like gold and government bonds, saw fewer buyers.

Many analysts predict stock prices will continue to climb in 2014, but at a slower pace.

Investment advisor and author Matthew Tuttle, of Tuttle Tactical Management in Stamford Connecticut says prices will increase, but so will risk.

"We have a 'house of cards' but we don't see the cards toppling really until 2016. We are definitely forming a bubble but that bubble still has a lot of room to grow."

Tuttle says it is crucial that the U.S. Federal Reserve moves gradually and carefully when it reverses the low interest rate policies that spurred rising stock prices.

U.S. markets will be closed Wednesday for the New Year's holiday.

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