World Markets and Commodities Soar During Tumultuous 2009

Stock markets around the world soared over the past year, though they are still not yet fully recovered from the global recession.

In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both surged 60 percent since March. But stocks were so badly battered by the global recession that they will close only 20 percent higher since the first of 2009.

Stocks in India and China performed better, climbing about 80 percent in 2009. While other countries were in recession, those two emerging economies continued to expand.

European stocks also fared well. London's Financial Times 100 index ended 22 percent higher in 2009.

Analysts attribute the rapid rise, in part, to government efforts to ease the effects of the recession, and efforts to supply financing for struggling industries.

Commodities recorded their strongest year since the 1970s, driven upward by strong demand from China.

The S&P GSCI, a wide-ranging index of raw materials, gained about 50 percent in 2009. Two of the biggest movers were copper and sugar, which more than doubled in price.

Copper prices have risen nearly 140 percent as China has boosted imports of metals to keep up with rapid economic expansion. Prices have also gone up on concerns that a looming strike at a major mine in Chile will disrupt supplies.

Sugar prices have surged nearly 130 percent, as poor weather in major sugar-producing countries India and Brazil raised fears of a poor harvest.

Farmers in some parts of India were hurt by drought, and by lighter-than-normal monsoon rains in other parts. Poor crop yields drove up the price of food in the country by almost 19 percent.

Oil prices also have surged nearly 80 percent in the last year, to around $79 a barrel in New York trading. That is still far below the record high around $147 per barrel reached in July of 2008.

Oil prices plummeted as the global recession cut into demand, prompting the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cap production.

Analysts expect the upward trend in commodities prices to continue in 2010.