December 12, 2017
Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wall Street retreats from record levels; utilities fall

US stocks edged lower today, with major indexes pulling back from record levels as the recent rally lost steam, and the trend of modest moves and low volume continued heading into the final trading day of the year.

The day's losses were broad, with each of the ten primary S&P 500 sectors in negative territory. Utilities - 2014's best sector performer - led the decline with a drop of 2.1 percent.

Equities have enjoyed a solid rally of late, buoyed by strong economic data and the US Federal Reserve's commitment to be "patient" about raising interest rates. The S&P 500 gained nearly 6 percent over the prior eight sessions and managed to score its 53rd record close of the year on Monday.

The speed and scale of the rally provided incentive to take profits, and amplified volatility is possible this week with many market participants out for the holiday, which dampens volume. The stock market will be closed on Thursday for the New Year's holiday.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 55.16 points, or 0.31 percent, to 17,983.07, the S&P 500 lost 10.22 points, or 0.49 percent, to 2,080.35 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 29.47 points, or 0.61 percent, to 4,777.44.

European shares fell on the last full trading day of the year, with energy companies hit as Brent oil touched a 5-1/2-year low on persistent concerns about a global supply glut.

The STOXX Europe 600 oil & gas index dropped 1.8 percent, taking its loss for the year to 15 percent. The price of Brent crude has fallen by about half since June due to a big oversupply and tepid demand, hitting energy companies hard.

Trading activity was subdued overall, with uncertainty in Greece also weighing on markets ahead of a Jan. 25 election that polls indicate the leftist anti-bailout Syriza party could win.

But despite a skittish end to 2014, European shares looked set to finish the year close to their post-crisis highs, helped by investor expectations that the European Central Bank will launch more market-friendly measures to stave off deflation.

Germany's blue-chip DAX index, which closed early today for the new year holiday, ended 2014 near an all-time high reached in December and posted a 2.7 percent annual gain. Most other European markets will close for the year on Wednesday, with pan-European trading set to resume on Friday.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European shares fell 1 percent to 1,362.85 points. The index, however, has gained around 4 percent year-to-date.

Meanwhile, Japanese stocks ended 2014 on a down note today, as investors closed positions before extended new year holidays and worries about Greek politics sapped risk appetites.

The Nikkei benchmark shed 1.6 percent to close at 17,450.77. The index gained 7.1 percent for the year, driven by aggressive asset purchases by the Bank of Japan and a weaker yen that boosted corporate profits. In 2013, it soared 57 percent on the back of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's easy-money policies.

Japanese markets will be closed until Jan. 5.

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Tags:  US  stock market  Europe  Nikkei  

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