STOCKS FALL, OIL TUMBLES: Here's what you need to know

Japan zodiac monkeyAP ImagesYear-end visitors walk through Nakamise alley, under a wooden plaque featuring monkey, the symbol of the year 2016 in the oriental zodiac calendar, at Asakusa Sensoji temple in Tokyo, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015.

The stock markets kicked off the holiday-shortened week with a modest sell-off.

“[W]e do not have much going on down here today,” New York Stock Exchange floor governor Rich Barry said in an afternoon email. “It is dead … We expect volume levels to remain low for the remainder of the holiday-shortened week.”

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 17,528.2, -23.9, (-0.1%)
  • S&P 500: 2,056.5, -4.4, (-0.2%)
  • Nasdaq: 5,040.9, -7.5, (-0.1%)

And now, the top stories on Monday:

  1. Oil prices continue to be volatile. Brent crude fell 3.4% to $36.62 per barrel. The sell-off came after Iran’s oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said it was a priority to boost oil exports to pre-sanction levels. This comes as concerns of oversupply and weak demand keeps prices at there lowest levels in a decade.
  2. Texas continues to get smoked by low oil prices. The Dallas Fed’s general business activity index collapsed to -20.1 in December from -4.9 in November. “The price of oil is really impacting our customer base and, in turn, purchases of our product,” said a survey respondent in the fabricated metal products business. “It is getting ugly.”
  3. In stock-specific news, wearable health technology company Fitbit surged. Fitbit is the top app in Apple’s App Store, suggesting huge holiday sales.
  4. On the losing side is Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which was down 9.5% in early trading. Following reports that its CEO Mike Pearson was being treated for a severe case of pneumonia, Valeant announced that Pearson was officially taking a medical leave of absence.
  5. We’re on “Santa Claus rally” watch. This is the stock market rally often observed between Christmas and New Years. According to PNC’s William Stone, Santa Claus has delivered rallies in 34 of the past 45 years. And the average cumulative return is 1.4%.
  6. And if Santa fails to deliver, we could witness the end of a 140-year long streak in the stock market. Here’s Barry: “…the S&P 500 currently stands at -0.40% on a year-to-date basis, with 3 1/2 sessions left in 2015. This is significant because, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac, the S&P has not ended the year in negative territory in a year ending in “5” since 1875(!). That is a 140-year-old streak. Yes, statistics are a funny thing. If you look long enough and hard enough you can always find something interesting that has zero to do with market fundamentals.”

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