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Wall Street Finishes Worst Year Since 2008

The S&P 500 saw its worst December since the Great Depression and Nasdaq confirmed it was in a bear market, or 20 percent below its high.

Reuters
    Dec 31, 2018 3:02 PM  PT
Wall Street Finishes Worst Year Since 2008

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street advanced in low-volume trading on Monday as revelers gathered to ring in 2019, marking the end of the worst year for U.S. stocks since 2008, the height of the financial crisis.

Wall Street entered correction territory in late January and was challenged for much of 2018 by tariff jitters, rising interest rates, and fears of diminishing corporate profits.

"Investors got complacent," said Thomas Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt Investments in Atlanta. "People were positioned for the lack of volatility, and when that changed because of trade concerns and interest rates, people started repositioning and that started the cascade."

December was a particularly trying month for U.S. equities. The S&P 500 saw its worst December since the Great Depression and Nasdaq confirmed it was in a bear market, or 20 percent below its high. All three are down about 9 percent since the beginning of the month.

In the new year, investors hope for the removal of question marks that acted as significant headwinds in 2018, including U.S.-China trade negotiations, the path of U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, slowing corporate growth and economic fallout from the upcoming departure of Britain from the European Union, or Brexit, among other concerns.

As 2019 gets underway, "investors will be looking to corporate earnings, what happens with the trade negotiations and the body language of the Fed," Martin added.

On Monday, renewed hopes for a resolution to the U.S.-China trade dispute provided a glimmer of optimism for investors.

U.S. President Donald Trump indicated on Twitter that progress had been made toward a potential settlement of trade tensions between the United States and China which have plagued stock markets for much of the year.

Trading volume was relatively light, owing to the holiday as the U.S. federal government shutdown entered its 10th day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 265.06 points, or 1.15 percent, to 23,327.46, the S&P 500 gained 21.11 points, or 0.85 percent, to 2,506.85 and the Nasdaq Composite added 50.76 points, or 0.77 percent, to 6,635.28.

All 11 major sectors in the S&P 500 ended the session in positive territory. But for the year, only healthcare and utilities ended 2018 higher.

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