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Stock Market News for December 30, 2014

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Benchmarks ended Monday’s trading session little changed as investors received news on slump in oil prices and political turmoil in Greece. The S&P 500 was able to notch up another record close this year despite a rally among energy shares losing momentum due to drop in oil prices. However, the Dow settled in the negative territory and the Nasdaq remained flat. Meanwhile, investors kept an eye on the renewed political unrest in Greece. The country’s Prime Minister failed to get the required number of votes for his presidential nominee and called for a national election on Jan 25.

For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article
 
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) declined 0.1% to close at 18,038.23. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) gained 0.1% to close at 2,090.57. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index remained unchanged at 4,806.91. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) gained 3.9% to settle at 15.06. A total of about 4.78 billion shares were traded on Monday, significantly below the month-to-date average of 7.18 billion. Advancers outpaced declining stocks on the NYSE. For 57% stocks that advanced, 41% declined.
 
Benchmarks traded in a narrow range, swinging between small gains and losses on Monday. This was more than enough for the S&P 500 to eke out a record high for the 53rd time this year. The index also posted gains in seven out of its last eight trading sessions on Monday. The Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU) was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 sectors. The sector gained 1.2%. Key utilities stocks including Duke Energy Corporation (DUK - Free Report) , NextEra Energy, Inc. (NEE - Free Report) , Southern Company (SO - Free Report) , Dominion Resources, Inc. (D - Free Report) and Exelon Corporation (EXC - Free Report) increased 1.2%, 1.1%, 0.8%, 1.2% and 1.1%, respectively.
 
The SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) gained almost 1%, the second highest among the S&P 500 sectors. Housing stocks such as Lennar Corp. (LEN - Free Report) , Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL - Free Report) , and PulteGroup, Inc. (PHM - Free Report) advanced 1.2%, 0.9% and 0.7%, respectively.
 
However, the S&P 500’s gains were curbed after a rally among energy shares was curtailed due to drop in oil prices. Earlier in the trading session, oil prices gained amid concerns that a fire damaged oil-storage terminals in Libya. However, gains soon fizzled out and the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil price dropped 2.1% to settle at $53.61 per barrel. This turned out to be the lowest settlement price since May 1, 2009. Additionally, price of Brent crude oil also slipped 2.7% to settle at $57.88 per barrel. Overall, crude oil prices have plunged 50% from this year’s high, achieved on June 20. This was the fastest 50% slide in oil prices in about eight years.

Nevertheless, the Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) advanced 0.4%. Key energy stocks such as Chevron Corporation (CVX - Free Report) , Schlumberger Limited (SLB - Free Report) , Kinder Morgan, Inc. (KMI - Free Report) , ConocoPhillips (COP - Free Report) and Nabors Industries Ltd. (NBR) increased 0.1%, 0.3%, 0.7%, 0.3% and 1.5%, respectively. Overall, 8 out of 10 sectors of the S&P 500 ended in the green.
 
The Dow snapped a seven-session winning streak and settled in the red. The blue chip index also had the narrowest trading session on Monday since the day before Thanksgiving Day, Nov 26. The Home Depot, Inc. (HD) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) gained the most among the Dow components. Shares of Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase went up 0.8% and 0.7%, respectively. On the other hand, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) turned out to be its biggest laggard. Shares of the information technology service provider declined 1.1%.
 
Meanwhile, investors focused on political concerns emanating from Europe. Greece is expected to head to polls in early 2015 after the country’s parliament rejected Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s preferred presidential candidate in a third and final vote on Monday. Antonis Samaras failed to secure 180 votes needed to back his candidate. This rejection means that the parliament is dissolved and Antonis Samaras is asking for a snap election to be held on Jan. 25. The Athex Composite stock index dropped 3.9% on Monday.


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