USA stocks gain in final session; 2018 sees biggest decline since 2008

Daniel Fowler
January 3, 2019

The stock market ended a miserable year on a positive note but still closed out 2018 with its worst showing in a decade.

After setting a series of records through the late summer and early fall, major USA indexes fell sharply after early October, leaving them all in the red for the year.

LOUSY YEAR: The S&P 500 index, the market's main benchmark, is on track for a loss of 6.5 per cent this year, or 5.2 per cent once dividends are included.

The Nasdaq composite added 50.76 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 6,635.28.

In small caps, the Russell 2000 closed at 1,348.56 for a gain of 10.64 points or 0.80%. Though the entire year was relatively rocky for the U.S. indexes, December was by far the worst month, with the S&P 500 seeing its worst month since the Great Depression and the Nasdaq entering bear market territory after plummeting 20 percent from its high.

The year as a whole was marked by extreme volatility, as the Dow swung by 1,000 points in a single session five times in 2018.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 3 new highs and 61 new lows. It finished 12.2 percent lower for the year. The tech-heavy Nasdaq has been hovering on the edge of a bear market, which is normally defined as a 20 percent dive from a recent peak.

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On Monday, benchmark USA crude oil inched up 0.2 percent to settle at $45.41 a barrel in NY. However, for the week, the Dow rose 2.8%, the S&P 500 climbed 2.9%, while the Nasdaq registered a weekly gain of 4%, with all three indexes marking their first weekly gains after three straight weekly declines.

Energy companies fared the worst, plunging 20.5 percent for the year, as the price of US crude oil tumbled around 40 percent from a four-year peak of $76 a barrel in October.

"The fact of the matter is that there were Trump headlines over the weekend which pushed stocks higher initially, but such moves certainly don't last for very long in a market like this", said Michael Antonelli, managing director, institutional sales trading at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee. Trump also claimed that "big progress" was being made on this front. Brent crude, the benchmark for global prices, gained 84 cents to $54.05 per barrel. If made, it will be very comprehensive, covering all subjects, areas and points of dispute.

Stocks are snapping higher in early trading on Wall Street on the last day of a volatile year as hopes grew for progress in resolving trade frictions between the US and China. Meanwhile, the official Xinhua News Agency cited a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying that "China stands ready to work with the United States to move forward the China-U.S. ties which are underpinned by coordination, cooperation and stability".

CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 109.98 yen from 110.28 yen last Friday. The euro was flat at $1.1433.

METALS: Gold slipped 0.1 per cent to $1,281.30 an ounce and silver gained 0.7 per cent to $15.54 an ounce. Natural gas plunged 11 percent to $2.94 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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