London: Emerging markets stocks hit a new year high on Tuesday, rising to levels last seen before the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapse, and world stocks headed firmly towards a new 2009 peak.

Market boost: A share price board in Tokyo. The Nikkei closed up 0.7%. Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP

The weaker dollar helped gold rise above $1,000 (Rs48,700) an ounce (28.35g).

MSCI’s benchmark emerging market index was up around 1.2%, at its highest level since 9 September last year, a few days before Lehman’s demise and a mass market sell-off triggered by fears for the financial system.

World stocks in general as measured by MSCI were up 0.8%, within shouting distance of their 24 August peak.

Although there was a brief pull back last week, equity markets have continued the rally that began in March this year. The world index has gained 62% since then while the emerging market sector is up 85%.

“As we are moving into the fourth quarter, markets and investors are looking to position themselves for the rest of this year and the beginning of next year," said Zsolt Papp, chief economist for emerging Europe at KBC.

“There is a bit more optimism towards the global outlook, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) has upgraded its 2010 growth forecast. Data for 2009 is not going to affect markets any more," he added.

Investors have been bolstered this week by a number of factors including the weekend decision by Group of Twenty finance ministers to keep economic stimuli in place, renewed mergers and acquisitions and a slower decline in US job losses.

Japan’s Nikkei closed up 0.7% and the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.4%.

It was the third session of gains in a row for the European index, which was rising in part because of mining stocks and the higher gold price. Gold has risen around 6% so far this month and was something of a caveat on the day about the rising stocks.

It is being driven in part by the weaker dollar and technical factors, but also by caution about the economy and stock market rally.

“There are questions out there over the health of economies, where interest rates are going. All that encourages gold hoarding. There’s potential to see the price go even higher," said Sandra Close, an analyst for gold research group Surbiton Associates Pty Ltd.

The dollar slumped to its lowest in almost a year against a basket of major currencies.

Renewed concern over the dollar’s long-term status as the world’s reserve currency sparked by a United Nations agency report on Monday and options-related euro buying also fuelled the broad-based dollar selling.

The euro broke above a big reported options-barrier at $1.4450.

“Market sentiment is driving this, and the sentiment is strongly dollar negative," said Maurice Pomery, managing director at Strategic Alpha Plc in London.

The dollar index, a gauge of the greenback’s performance against six major currencies, fell around 1% on the day.

The euro rose as high as $1.4475, according to Reuters charts, up almost 1% on the day on the dollar and at its strongest in a month.

Against the yen, the dollar dipped 1% from late Monday trade to 92.05 yen (Rs48.79).

Carolyn Cohn and Emelia Sithole-Matarise contributed to this story.