The Dow's Not the Only Market Near Record Highs

The Dow Jones Industrials won't have an opportunity to set a new all-time record high on Monday, as the U.S. markets are closed for Memorial Day. But U.S. holidays give investors a good chance to take a look at the broader investing world to find out how other markets are doing. Although the Nikkei 225 remains far below its best levels of the year, let alone all time, markets in Europe have follow the Dow's lead, with the FTSE 100 and the German DAX at or near their best levels ever. Let's take a closer look at what's happening in other developed stock markets around the world.

What's happening around the globe
Japanese stocks are nowhere near their all-time record highs, with the stock market remaining far below its best levels from the early 1990s. Optimism over broad-based economic reforms in Japan helped lift the Nikkei to a very strong performance in 2013, as it even outperformed the Dow Jones Industrials and their own solid gains. In particular, moves to weaken the Japanese yen led to a boost in the key export industry, and they also made the international value of Japan's debt less onerous in foreign-currency terms. Lately, however, Japan has imposed an increase in its national sales tax, and that in turn has threatened to hit domestic consumption hard as Japan's residents adjust to higher prices for buying things. Although growth in the U.S. and China have positive impacts on Japan's economy, the Nikkei is likely to hold back until Japan gets through the adjustment period.

The FTSE 100 hasn't hit a new all-time high since 1999, but it came with 1% of doing so last week. Broader measures of the U.K. market have already hit new record highs, as Great Britain has done a good job of threading the needle between using austerity measures to prevent the sovereign-debt problems that have hurt many other European countries while still supporting its economy. With inflation increasingly under control, it's possible that new Bank of England governor Mark Carney will get a chance to cut interest rates further, which could be the last obstacle before the market hits new highs.

In Germany, the DAX has already hit new all-time records, and with the index just a couple hundred points below the psychologically important 10,000 mark, German investors expect the good times to continue. Germany has become a lot more stable in recent years, as the Eurozone has successfully navigated its sovereign debt issues at least for the moment. Germany's role as both the stalwart economy in Europe and a huge exporter around the world gives the country's stock market particular importance, and with signs of a stronger recovery from recessionary conditions, German stocks could continue to rise.

It's always good to keep an eye on stock markets around the world. With the perception that the U.S. is the best stock market right now, the strength in these other markets would be easy to overlook if you don't watch closely.

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