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Stock Market News for December 31, 2015

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The second last trading session was somewhat indicative of the sordid mood markets suffered for most part of this year. Another rout in oil prices dragged the benchmarks down to the red on Wednesday. Also, a slide in Apple sparked a technology sector selloff. Investors were also unnerved after the IMF chief warned of disappointing global economic growth next year. Eventually, yesterday’s loss left Dow in the red and S&P 500 is up just 0.2% in 2015.

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 about 0.7% to close at 17,603.87. The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) dropped over 0.7% to close at 2,063.36. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 5,065.85, decreasing 0.8%. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) surged 7.5% to settle at 17.29. A total of around 2.4 billion shares were traded on Wednesday on the NYSE. Decliners outpaced advancing stocks on the NYSE. For 86% stocks that declined, 13% advanced.

On many occasions this year the slump in crude prices and the subsequent decline in the energy sector has dragged benchmarks lower. On the second last trading session of the year, it was again the slump in crude prices that damaged the markets the most. The WTI Crude Oil slumped 3.5% to settle at $36.60 and the Brent Crude Oil nosedived 3.7% to close at $36.46.

Oil prices plunged in electronic trading late Tuesday, after American Petroleum Institute reported an unexpected jump in U.S. crude supplies. Eventually on Wednesday, crude slumped as government data revealed that inventories of U.S. commercial crude surprisingly increased by 2.6 million barrels for the week ended Dec 25. This unexpected data from the Energy Information Administration was in contrast to projections from analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal that U.S. crude inventories will decline by 1 million barrels.

This obviously dragged the energy sector lower and the 1.4% drop in Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) was yesterday’s biggest decline among the S&P industry groups. XLE is now down 24.4% year-to-date, the biggest decliner.

Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM - Free Report) slumped 1.3% and Chevron Corporation ( (CVX - Free Report) was also down nearly 1.3%. Chevron was the biggest drag on the Dow yesterday. Other key energy shares such as Schlumberger Limited (SLB - Free Report) , Occidental Petroleum Corporation ( (OXY - Free Report) , ConocoPhillips (COP - Free Report) and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (APC - Free Report) declined 1.2%, 1.7%, 2.5% and 2.7%, respectively.

Separately, the technology sector also suffered losses, pulled down by Apple Inc. (AAPL - Free Report) . Shares of the iPhone maker dropped 1.3% after sources mentioned that the company had to pay $348 million to settle a tax claim in Italy. Apple was the biggest drag on Nasdaq and S&P 500.

Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK) dropped 0.8% yesterday and key stocks such as Facebook, Inc. (FB - Free Report) ), Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ - Free Report) , Intel Corporation ( (INTC - Free Report) and Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO - Free Report) dropped 1%, 0.9%, 1.3% and 0.9%, respectively.

Dismal global economic growth prospects in 2016 also kept the bearish mood alive. IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said that China’s economic slowdown and rising rates in the US are sparking global economic uncertainty. Economies that are reliant on commodities are facing headwinds due to the slump in raw material prices and a slowdown in global trade. Financial threats are increasing in emerging economies and many economies have weak financial sectors. Lagarde said: “All of that means global growth will be disappointing and uneven in 2016”.

Coming to economic data, the National Association of Realtors reported that its pending home sales index dropped 0.9% in November to 106.9. The drop came after the same had increased in October, following two months of downtrend.

Though Nasdaq is in a comfortable seat to finish the year with decent gains, yesterday’s decline left little scope for the Dow to finish 2015 in the green. The blue-chip index is now down 219 points, or 1.2%%, in 2015. Today’s trading session is most likely to be thin, and offers hardly any hope for the Dow to end 2015 with strong gains.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is up just 5 points this year and thus would hope to see a positive momentum on the last trading session of the year. If the S&P 500 ends in the red, it would be its worst year since 2008. A finish in the green, though with meagre gains, will help it close with yearly gains for the fourth straight time.

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