China, Emerging Markets Lead 2019 Rebound For Global Equities

Across-the-board gains continue to mark this year's results for global equity markets, based on a set of exchange-traded funds that track the world's major regions and countries. At the top of the performance list so far in 2019: stocks in China, Latin America and Africa.

The strongest increase year to date is currently held by iShares MSCI China (NASDAQ:MCHI), which is up 13.6% through yesterday's close (Feb. 21). After suffering a sharp loss in 2018, the ETF has rallied this year and on Thursday closed above its 200-day moving average for a second straight day.

One factor that appears to be supporting Chinese stocks lately: upbeat reports in recent days that Sino-US trade talks may soon lead to a solution for resolving the trade war between the world's largest economies. Bloomberg reports that President Trump is scheduled to meet with China's top trade negotiator today (Feb. 22), an encounter that may produce a preliminary deal on a new round of tariffs that the US is planning to impose next month.

The second-strongest gain year to date is currently held by an ETF focused on Latin America. After a rough 2018 that took a hefty bite out of iShares Latin America 40 (NYSEARCA:ILF), the ETF is up 12.6% this year. In third place: VanEck Vectors Africa (NYSEARCA:AFK), which has also rebounded in 2019 and is currently posting a 12.1% return.

The US equity market is the fourth-strongest performer in this ranking. SPDR S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) is ahead by a solid 11.0% for 2019 - just slightly ahead of global equity market overall, based on the 10.4% year-to-date gain for Vanguard Total World Stock (NYSEARCA:VT).

The weakest year-to-date performer in the major region/country lineup: equity markets in the Middle East. After a strong run in 2018, WisdomTree Middle East Dividend (NASDAQ:GULF) has become a relative laggard this year. At Thursday's close, GULF was up 4.9% for 2019.

Foreign markets edged higher in Friday's trading, buoyed by expectations that the US-China trade war may be set to ease.

"Given that enough headway seems to have been made to warrant a meeting between Trump and the Chinese negotiator today, it appears more likely that the US will not raise the levies, which should help high-beta currencies and equities push higher," predicts Konstantinos Anthis, head of research at ADSS, a forex broker in Abu Dhabi.