Wall Street Wraps Up Surprisingly Good Year

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock futures are little changed Friday as the market puts the wraps on a year of surprisingly robust gains.

The benchmark S&P 500 index is just 0.3% from an all-time high after a gain of 24.6% in 2023. The Dow Jones Industrial Average sits at a record 37,710.10. The Nasdaq shows a year-to-date gain of 44.2%, driven by gains in big technology companies.

The so-called Magnificent 7 companies — Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Nvidia, Meta Platforms and Tesla — accounted for about two-thirds of the gains in the S&P 500 this year, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. Nvidia leads the group with a gain of about 240%.

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Shares in European markets rose as well this year. Benchmark indexes in France and Germany made double-digit advances, while Britain’s has climbed just under 4%.

Asia markets had a mixed session on the last trading day of the year for most markets. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gave up 0.2% to 33,464.17. It gained 27% in 2023, its best year in a decade as the Japanese central bank inched toward ending its longstanding ultra-lax monetary policy after inflation finally exceeded its target of about 2%.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong ended flat, while the Shanghai Composite index gained 0.7%. The Shanghai index lost about 3% this year and the Hang Seng fell nearly 14%. Weakness in the property sector and in global demand for China’s exports, as well as high debt levels and wavering consumer confidence have weighed on the country’s economy and the stock market.

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Wall Street is coming off a quiet day Thursday. All the major indexes are on track for weekly gains, with the S&P 500 on track for its ninth straight week of gains.

Investors in the U.S. came into the year expecting inflation to ease further as the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates higher. The trade-off would be a weaker economy and possibly a recession. But while inflation has come down to around 3%, the economy has chugged along thanks to solid consumer spending and a healthy job market.

The stock market is now betting the Fed can achieve a “soft landing,” where the economy slows just enough to snuff out high inflation, but not so much that it falls into a recession. As a result, investors now expect the Fed to begin cutting rates as early as March.

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The yield on the 10-year Treasury was at 3.87% early Friday. It surpassed 5.00% in October, but has been generally falling since then, easing the pressure on stocks.

U.S. benchmark crude oil was up 8 cents at $71.85 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude advanced 22 cents to $77.37 per barrel.


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