Equities rally as U.S. "cliff" deal nears; oil up

Mon Dec 31, 2012 4:24pm EST
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By Steven C. Johnson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street rallied on Monday and global equities finished their best year in the last three as U.S. lawmakers closed in on a deal to avoid a budget crisis that many fear could cripple the world economy in 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Congress was close to an agreement that would start chipping away at the deficit without raising middle-class taxes.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also said an agreement was "very, very close," though it wasn't clear whether a vote would happen on Monday or be pushed into early 2013.

U.S. stocks rose, capping off a strong year on a high note and leaving the MSCI all-world index on track to end the year up more than 13 percent.

The S&P 500 closed out 2012 with a gain of 13.4 percent in 2012 after a nearly flat performance the prior year. The Dow was up 7.3 percent and the Nasdaq nearly 16 percent.

Oil prices edged higher on Monday on optimism over a budget deal, while U.S. government debt prices fell.

The budget deal is not likely to provide a long-term road map to reduce the U.S. budget deficit, which has been above $1 trillion for four straight years.

"Traders understand that this is a stop-gap measure, but they'll take it," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark. "Markets can rally with some growth, but not with no growth. For now, they don't mind kicking the can down the road."   Continued...

An employee of a foreign exchange trading company looks at monitors as a television set shows Japan's incoming Prime Minister and the leader of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe speaking in Tokyo December 26, 2012. The yen fell to a 20-month low against the dollar on Wednesday, buoying the benchmark Nikkei stock average, as Japan ushers in a new prime minister eager to pursue drastic stimulus steps to drive the country's economy out of deflation. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao