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Stocks

Wall Street ends 2016 with solid gains although last trading day of the year ends on dour note

US dollar, oil and gold advance despite the year’s political shocks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 6:53am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 December, 2016, 6:53am

US stocks slumped on the last trading day of the year on Friday, led down by Apple and other big tech stocks, but major indexes still posted solid gains in 2016.

In subdued holiday trading, the S&P 500 declined for a third consecutive session.

But the benchmark index still tallied an annual gain of 9.5 per cent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 13.4 per cent for 2016, even as it recorded its first weekly decline since the US election on November 8.

Stocks stalled this week after surging in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential election. Investors have bet Trump will cut taxes and regulations and introduce fresh economic stimulus.

“It’s been such a significant run-up that there’s been a pause,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama. “We are to the point now where there’s uncertainty with regard to what policies are implemented, when are they implemented and how are they going to affect the economy as a whole and industries specifically.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 57.18 points, or 0.29 per cent, to finish Friday at 19,762.6, the S&P 500 lost 10.43 points, or 0.46 per cent, to close at 2,238.83 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 48.97 points, or 0.9 per cent, to settle at 5,383.12.

The Dow slipped further from the 20,000 milestone, after coming within 13 points of the mark but not yet breaching it. The Dow is now up about 8 per cent since the election.

“Much depends on how the Trump presidency and the Chinese economy work out”
Marshall Gittler, chief market analyst for retail broker FX Primus

Global markets have fared surprisingly well in a year marked by major political shocks, including June’s vote for Britain to leave the European Union and the unexpected election of Trump as US president in November.

MSCI’s world index, which tracks shares in 46 countries, rose 5.6 per cent in 2016, its best performance in three years.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended the session up 0.3 per cent. For the year, the index finished down 1.2 per cent, its first annual loss in five years.

China and Hong Kong stocks may shed dismal year for gains in 2017, analysts say

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, gained about 3.7 per cent for the year, even as the euro briefly climbed nearly two full cents in overnight trading to $1.0651, its highest since December 14.

Gold prices eased on Friday as gains from a weak dollar was offset by profit-taking at the end of a year in which bullion gained about more than 8 per cent, snapping three years of declines.

Spot gold reached its highest since December 14 at US$1,163.14 an ounce, before retreating 0.7 per cent to $1,150.5 per ounce. Prices were up about 8.5 per cent annually, its biggest increase since 2011.

US gold futures ended the session 0.6 per cent lower at $1,151.7 per ounce.

The dollar has rallied hard since the November election on expectations that Trump’s plan to boost fiscal stimulus would benefit the currency. A faster projected pace of rate hikes from the Federal Reserve next year also helped the rally.

Still, doubts linger about how much dollar appreciation a Trump White House will tolerate.

“Much depends on how the Trump presidency and the Chinese economy work out,” said Marshall Gittler, chief market analyst for retail broker FX Primus.

Oil prices settled little changed on Friday but attained their biggest annual gain in seven years after OPEC and other major producers agreed to cut output to reduce a global supply overhang that has depressed prices for two years.

Brent rose 52 per cent this year and WTI climbed around 45 per cent. On Friday, Brent crude settled down 3 cents, or 0.05 per cent, at US$56.82 a barrel, and US crude settled down 5 cents, or 0.09 per cent, at $53.72.

“It’s been quite a rally, so not surprised to see some profit taking,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer with Solaris Asset Management in New York.

“There might be some reality setting in that a lot of this rally is based on assumptions of stimulus legislation occurring, and it’s really the market’s hope that those actions occur and that there isn’t a heated battle and a water down of some of these indicated proposals by the soon-to-be new administration,” Ghriskey said.

Apple shares fell 0.8 per cent after a report that the company will trim iPhone production. Shares of Apple suppliers such as Cirrus Logic and Qualcomm also declined.

Tech was the worst-performing major S&P sector, falling 1 per cent. Big tech names such as Microsoft and Alphabet slumped more than 1 per cent.

Investors are wary that the market could be primed for a spill to start 2017, after the S&P 500 posted a surprisingly strong gain in 2016.

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