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
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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.


Twitter co-founder Evan Williams leaving board

Updated 24 min 21 sec ago
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Twitter co-founder Evan Williams leaving board

  • ‘It’s been an incredible 13 years, and I’m proud of what Twitter has accomplished during my time with the company’
  • ‘I’m going to ride off into the sunset (or...down Market Street), so I can focus on some other things’

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter co-founder and one-time chief executive Evan Williams is stepping down from the board, leaving the one-to-many messaging service to focus on “other projects.”
Williams will depart the Twitter board at the end of this month, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.
“It’s been an incredible 13 years, and I’m proud of what Twitter has accomplished during my time with the company,” Williams said in the filing.
“I will continue rooting for the team as I focus my time on other projects.”
Williams throttled back his role in the San Francisco-based startup eight years ago, turning his attention to new endeavors including creating popular online publishing platform Medium.
Williams ceded his role as Twitter chief executive to Dick Costolo in 2010. Co-founder Jack Dorsey returned as Twitter chief in 2015, having held the position when the startup was nascent.
Dorsey said in a Tweet that Williams was the reason he joined startup Odeo, an endeavor that led to him, Williams and Biz Stone creating Twitter.
“I appreciate you, Ev!” Dorsey tweeted on Friday.
“We’re going to miss your voice in our board conversations.”
Twitter has become a high-profile, and sometimes controversial, global stage for communication since it was launched in March of 2006.
“Thank you, @jack and @biz for starting this crazy company with me-and continuing to make it better and better,” Williams tweeted.
“I’m going to ride off into the sunset (or...down Market Street), so I can focus on some other things.”