US stocks end dismal, volatile year on a bright note

Wall Street started 2018 strong, buoyed by a growing economy and corporate profits, but jitters set in during the latter part of the year. (AP)
Updated 01 January 2019
0

US stocks end dismal, volatile year on a bright note

  • Wall Street started 2018 strong, buoyed by a growing economy and corporate profits
  • ‘This has really been a challenging year for investors’

NEW YORK: Wall Street closed out a dismal, turbulent year for stocks on a bright note Monday, but still finished 2018 with the worst showing in a decade.
After setting a series of records through the late summer and early fall, major US indexes fell sharply after early October, leaving them all in the red for the year.
The S&P 500 index, the market’s main benchmark, finished the year with a loss of 6.2 percent. The last time the index fell for the year was in 2008 during the financial crisis. The S&P 500 posted tiny losses in 2011 and 2015, but eked out small gains in both years once dividends were included.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 5.6 percent. The Nasdaq composite slid 3.9 percent.
Major indexes in Europe also ended 2018 in the red. The CAC 40 of France finished the year down 11 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 lost 12.5 percent. Germany’s DAX ended the year in a bear market, down 22 percent from a high in January and 18 percent from the start of the year.
“This has really been a challenging year for investors,” said Jeff Kravetz, regional investment strategist at US Bank Wealth Management. “This was really the year that market volatility returned with a vengeance.”
Wall Street started 2018 strong, buoyed by a growing economy and corporate profits. Stocks climbed to new highs early, shook off a sudden, steep drop by spring and rode a wave of tax cut-juiced corporate earnings growth to another all-time high by September. Then the jitters set in.
Investors grew worried that the testy US-China trade dispute and higher interest rates would slow the economy, hurting corporate profits. A slowing US housing market and forecasts of weaker global growth in 2019 stoked traders’ unease.
In October the market’s gyrations grew more volatile.
The autumn sell-off knocked the benchmark S&P 500 index into a correction, or a drop of 10 percent from its all-time high, for the second time in nine months. A Christmas Eve plunge brought it briefly into bear market territory, or a drop of 20 percent from its peak, before closing just short of the threshold that would have meant the end of the market’s nearly 10-year bull market run.
“For markets to move higher next year, we’re going to have to resolve those issues,” Kravetz said.
The risks confronting investors have market strategists along Wall Street forecasting another turbulent year for stocks in 2019, and potentially one of the most difficult years for investors since the bull market began.
On Monday, the S&P 500 index rose 21.11 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,506.85. The Dow gained 265.06 points, or 1.2 percent, to 23,327.46. The Nasdaq added 50.76 points, or 0.8 percent, to 6,635.28. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 10.64 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,348.56. It finished 12.2 percent lower for the year.
Health care stocks paved the way for Monday’s modest gains. The sector ended the year with a 4.7 percent increase, to lead all other sectors in the S&P 500. Utilities were the only other sector to eke out an annual gain, adding 0.5 percent.
Technology companies, a big driver of the market’s gains before things deteriorated in October, ended the year with a 1.6 percent loss. Three of the five so-called “FAANG” stocks — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet — ended 2018 lower. Amazon rose 28.4 percent, while Netflix jumped 39.4 percent.
Energy companies fared the worst, plunging 20.5 percent for the year, as the price of US crude oil tumbled around 40 percent from a four-year peak of $76 a barrel in October.


Lufthansa announces overhaul of budget carrier Eurowings

Updated 24 June 2019
0

Lufthansa announces overhaul of budget carrier Eurowings

  • Lufthansa cited falling revenues at Eurowings as a major reason for its warning on full-year profits on June 16
  • Eurowings’ long-haul business would be managed by Lufthansa in the future

BERLIN: Lufthansa on Monday announced a turnaround plan for Eurowings in which the budget carrier will focus on short-haul flights and seek a 15 percent cut in costs by 2022 in the hope of returning to profit.
The German airline cited falling revenues at Eurowings as a major reason for its warning on full-year profits on June 16. Eurowings’ revenue was also forecast to fall sharply in the second quarter.
Lufthansa said its Eurowings fleet would be standardized on the Airbus A320 family and it would seek to boost productivity at Eurowings by limiting itself in Germany to one air operator’s certificate.
Brussels Airlines — the Belgian national flag carrier which Lufthansa took control of in 2016 — would not be integrated into Eurowings, Lufthansa said. A turnaround plan for Brussels Airlines will be announced in the third quarter.
Lufthansa also said it would start pegging its dividend payout ratio to net profit in the future to give the group more flexibility. It would pay out a regular dividend of 20 percent-40 percent of net profit, adjusted for one-off gains and losses.
Lufthansa said Eurowings’ long-haul business would be managed by Lufthansa in the future.
Carsten Spohr, Chief Executive Officer of Lufthansa, said Monday’s announcements sent “a clear signal that this company cares about its shareholders and tries to create value for them.”
Lufthansa said its Network Airlines — made up of Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines — would aim to use innovations in sales and distribution to make a contribution to increasing unit revenues by 3 percent by 2022.
Network Airlines will aim to reduce unit costs continuously by 1 to 2 percent annually, the airline said.