Stocks Close Session Strong, But Still Log Worst Year Since 2008

All three benchmarks finished with sharp monthly, quarterly, and annual losses

Managing Editor
Dec 31, 2018 at 4:37 PM
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On the final trading day of a wild 2018, stocks finished a low-volume session higher with little fanfare. The Dow held on to its gains all day, finishing up more than 260 points. China trade optimism helped push the S&P and Nasdaq into the black, too. However, all three benchmarks finished with steep monthly and quarterly deficits -- their worst in years. What's more, it was the Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq's worst annual decline since 2008. Emblematic of a volatility-laden 2018, Wall Street's "fear gauge," the VIX, logged its best year ever. 

Continue reading for more on today's market, including:

  • Look back at the biggest stock market stories of 2018.
  • A short seller is circling this weed stock.
  • Plus, the FAANG stock flashing a January "buy" signal; more trouble ahead for General Electric; and the best stocks to own next month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI - 23,327.46) closed the day up 265.1 points, or 1.2%. All 30 Dow of the components finished higher, led by a gain of 2.5% for Goldman Sachs (GS). Exxon Mobil (XOM) had the smallest gain, with a less than 0.1% bump. The Dow shed 8.7% for the month, 11.8% for the quarter, and 5.6% on the year. It was the Dow's worst month since February 2009 and worst quarter since December 2008. On the year, the Dow shed 5.6%.

The S&P 500 Index (SPX - 2,506.85) added 21.1 points, or 0.9%. It shed 9.2% in December, its worst month since February 2009. For the quarter, it lost 14%, its worst since September 2011. The S&P ended 2018 down 6.2%. The Nasdaq Composite (IXIC - 6,635.28) advanced 50.8 points, or 0.8%. Its 9.5% monthly loss was its worst since November 2008, and its 17.5% quarterly drop was its worst since December 2008. On the year, the Nasdaq fell 3.9%. 

The Cboe Volatility Index (VIX - 25.42) ended the day lower, down 2.9 points, or 10.3%. It boasted a 40.7% win in December and 109.7% gain for the quarter, its best quarter since September 2011. In 2018, the VIX gained 130.3% overall. 

closing indexes summary dec 31

nyse and nasdaq stats dec 21

5 Items on our Radar Today

  1. Earlier today, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren launched an exploratory committee to prepare for a 2020 presidential run. Warren, a Democrat, produced a video message to supporters detailing her platform. She is the first of what will likely be a lengthy list of politicians hoping to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020. (CNN)
  2. On the last day of the year, Treasury yields fell to 10-month lows. The 10-year yield dipped below 2.7% earlier today, its lowest since February. The yield has been in a steady decline since early November, coinciding with the sharp sell-off from U.S. equities. (Bloomberg)
  3. Netflix stock is flashing a historical "buy" signal for next month.
  4. General Electric stock could keep sinking next year.
  5. These are the best stocks and sectors for January.

There are no earnings to report.

Unusual Options Activity 1231

Data courtesy of Trade-Alert

Oil, Gold Finish 2018 in the Red

Oil futures logged a marginal gain today, with February-dated crude futures up 8 cents, or 0.2%, at $45.41 per barrel. Black gold finished with a 10.8% loss in December, and a 38% dive for the quarter. For the year, it gave back nearly 25%, its first annual loss since 2015.

Gold futures cooled off today to end lower, despite hitting a six-month peak earlier in the day. February-dated gold futures ended down $1.70, or 0.1%, to settle at $1,281.30 an ounce. Gold finished with a 4.6% gain in December and a 7.2% win for the quarter. Overall, though, it ended 2018 down 2%, marking its first year-over-year loss since 2015.


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