STORY: European shares hit an all-time high on Thursday (February 22).They were boosted by a rally in global stocks that also saw Japan's Nikkei touch record levels. Europe's STOXX 600 index rose to almost 496 points in early trade - beyond a previous record set two years ago.The European benchmark was up close to 1% by mid-morning. On a busy day for earnings, Rolls-Royce was among the top gainers. The jet-engine maker soared over 7% after it said profit more than doubled last year - beating forecasts amid a recovery in global air travel.German automaker Mercedes warned of an unpredictable year ahead due to trade tensions.But its stock still gained over 4% after it announced a big share buyback. Nestle bucked the trend though, sliding 4%. The food giant missed forecasts as rising prices for its goods put off some shoppers. Even so, global equities have largely risen of late due to a broadly resilient global economy.Markets also hold hopes of interest rate cuts by major central banks later in the year.Europe has also been helped by a surge in large cap stocks like Novo Nordisk, the maker of hit weight-loss drug Wegovy.It's not just Europe and Japan seeing records smashed though. The U.S. S&P 500 is also trading around all-time highs - led by gains in large cap tech stocks like fast-rising AI chip champion Nvidia.
SHOWS: STORY: In the quiet, frozen winter months, the small Ukrainian village of Lozuvatka can feel a long way from the nearest battlefield, some 60 miles away. But here 220 miles southeast of Kiev - and across Ukraine - the now two-year-old war with Russia continues to upend everyday lives. Alona Onyshchuk lost her husband, Serhii Aloshkin, in fighting in the eastern city of Bakhmut at the end of 2022. His grave lies alongside 10 others here. They're among tens of thousands estimated to have been killed or injured in the 24 months since Russia's invasion. "As the village council said: 'We did not expect that there would be so many of them. To the extent that we could have made an alley of heroes from the very beginning.'"Onyshchuk, who quit her job when she became pregnant, now cares for five-year-old Anhelina, while she struggles to cope with the loss of her husband. "This is in the city of Mariupol. And this is Azovstal."For Tetiana and Yurii Terletskyi, daily life now involves a lot of waiting, for news about their son Denys, who they say was captured in the port city of Mariupol in May 2022."This is very difficult. It is 2024 and we don't have any news. I don't know anything about my son.""You might not notice when looking at me, but deep down I worry too. Sometimes, he comes into my dreams. I want to see him again, I want him to come back home soon."Ukraine says around 8,000 soldiers and civilians are in Russian captivity.Another 3,000, mostly from the military, have been freed in prisoner of war exchanges. But many families have been left to ponder the fate of captured relatives.As the war stretches into a third year, Kyiv is looking to mobilise up to half a million more Ukrainians, draining villages like Lozuvatka of family members, friends and colleagues. Five of farmer Oleksandr Vasylchenko's 30 workers were called up to fight. He worries this, and reduced grain exports caused by the war, threaten the long term viability of his business, and ultimately Ukraine's ravaged economy. "In general, many specialists and mechaniсs from our community were mobilised. Our equipment needs repair. We need to cultivate the land, and we haven't trained young people yet. We will work on this.""Before the war, I had a quiet life, I had hobbies that I loved, and I had friends. But I lost many friends since the war began. Many of them proved who they are. Strangers became like relatives to me."For teacher Yuliia Samotuha, war changed her life, and the people she knows in Lozuvatka. The conflict is never far from her thoughts.She's on maternity leave, and spends her spare time these days volunteering; packaging up supplies for the front lines. "Vitamin mixes, dried fruits with nuts and honey, and an anti-inflammatory remedy. These comes in handy for the soldiers at the moment."Many lives have been turned upside down in villages, towns and cities across Ukraine. Anastasiia and Oleksandr Korobchenko escaped from their home in Luhansk region to the relative safety of Lozuvatka. The couple is among 3.7 million internally displaced Ukrainians. Another 5.9 million remain displaced outside Ukraine. The couple say their plans are on hold until their future, and that of Ukraine, is clear."When you don't know what will happen to you tomorrow, it's very hard to even to think about living with a child, in these conditions. I would really like to have a full family and give birth to a child. But we do not know where we will be tomorrow and what will happen to us tomorrow."
STORY: Japanese stocks hit a record high on Thursday. The moment drew a spontaneous round of applause on the trading floor at Nomura in Tokyo. Decades on from Japan’s bubble era economy, the Nikkei stock index hit the 39,000 mark. The 34 years it’s taken to regain the peak is a record for any major market. And it all comes despite recession at home, conflict around the world, and a global inflation shock. The Nikkei was Asia's best performing major bourse in 2023, and is now up around 17% just this year - almost three times the gains for the U.S. Nasdaq index. No single factor has driven the surge. A cheap yen has made Japanese stocks more affordable for overseas buyers. Corporate governance reforms and robust earnings have restored optimism over the country’s big firms. That’s lured back major investors like Warren Buffett. And some analysts say Japanese stocks just look cheap, when measured by price-to-earnings ratios - a common metric for valuations. Back in the bubble era the ratios went above 50, now they average barely more than 20. The firms behind the rally also look very different from the banks and property giants that once dominated Japan. Big gainers include Uniqlo-parent Fast Retailing, and chip gear makers Advantest and Tokyo Electron. Put it all together, and many investors bet the rally has further to run. A Bank of America survey of fund managers showed almost one in three expect more strong returns for Japanese stocks this year. Analysts at the bank say Japan is “by far, the favourite market in the region”.