20101104 financial professionals trade on the floor 18
Financial professionals trade on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, November 3, 2010 in New York. - 


STACEY VANEK SMITH: Stock prices are ending the year at their highest level since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Markets both here and in Europe have enjoyed a powerful pre-Christmas rally.

From European Desk in London, Stephen Beard reports.

STEPHEN BEARD: No mystery about what's driving the rally -- with rock-bottom interest rates, investors are desperate to get a better return for their money. And currently, that's to be found in shares. Fears of a double-dip recession have receded. Company profits look secure.

Richard Hunter's with British stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown. He says much of the global stock market optimism derives from the U.S., the world's biggest economy. Hunter says investors have been impressed by the resilience of American consumers.

RICHARD HUNTER: In terms of the Christmas period, early indications are that it's been a very robust trading season in terms of retail, which of course means that earnings expectations could surprise on the upside.

He admits that many risks remain, not least here in Europe where the danger of a government debt default has not gone away. And one prominent market bear says don't be fooled by the pre-Christmas rally, we're entering a new phase of madness.

In London this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.