For the third straight year, the S&P 500 posted double-digit gains. With Wednesday’s close, the S&P 500 finished the year with 53 record highs and an 11% gain (excluding dividends). On Wednesday, the major stock indexes declined in an ugly close that saw the averages fall to session lows in the final half hour of trading for the year.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17,822.8, -160, (-0.9%)
- S&P 500: 2,058.9, -21.5, (-1%)
- Nasdaq: 4,736, -41.4, (-0.9%)
And now, the top stories on Wednesday:
1. Due to Thursday’s New Year’s Day holiday, the weekly report on initial jobless claims — usually scheduled for Thursday mornings — came out Wednesday and showed that claims rose to 298,000 from last week’s 281,000 revised level. Following the report, economists at BNP Paribas said that the four-week moving average, which rose slightly to 290,750, shows that claims remains lower and are consistent with an improving labour market.
2. The December report on manufacturing in the Midwest from ISM Chicago showed that activity expanded at the slowest pace in five months. The latest Chicago PMI report came in at 58.3 — any reading over 50 indicates expansion — which missed expectations for a reading of 60.0 and was down from November’s 60.8. Following the report, Philip Uglow of MNI Indicators said, “It was a disappointing end to to the year with the pulse rate of our business panel slowing noticeably in December. The trend, however, remains solid and consistent with continued growth in the US economy.”
3. In the housing market, pending home sales rose 0.8% in November, rebounding from October’s 1.1% decline and beating expectations for a 0.4% increase. Year-on-year, pending home sales rose 4.1%, up from October’s 3.6% increase. Following the report, Lawrence Yun at the National Association of Realtors said, “The consistent economic growth and steady hiring we’ve seen the second half of this year is giving buyers enough assurance to consider purchasing a home before year’s end.”
4. The Russian ruble was volatile again on Wednesday, as the currency weakened to as low as 62 against the dollar. This year, the ruble has been the second-worst performer this year, beating only the Ukrainian hryvnia.
5. Reports on Wednesday said that Saudi Arabia’s 91-year-old King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz was hospitalized. Some analysts see this development as having the potential for Saudi Arabia to change its oil policy, which so far has seen the Middle Eastern nation keep oil production unchanged amid the crash in prices seen this year.
6. The best performing stock market in 2014 was the Shanghai Composite. In 2014, the Shanghai Composite rose more than 50%, and earlier on Wednesday Bloomberg economist Tom Orlik sent out a series of charts summing up the year in China.
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