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US: Wall St has worst start to year ever

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US stocks closed lower on Friday, ending a volatile week with their worst five-day start to a year ever, as sliding oil prices and lingering worries about the global economy offset upbeat US job growth.

[NEW YORK] US stocks closed lower on Friday, ending a volatile week with their worst five-day start to a year ever, as sliding oil prices and lingering worries about the global economy offset upbeat US job growth.

Both the Dow and S&P 500 had their worst five-day starts in history, with the Dow falling 6.2 per cent for the week and S&P 500 sliding 6 per cent. The Nasdaq was down 7.3 per cent this week.

All three indexes saw losses accelerating into the close.

The market had opened higher after data showing US nonfarm payrolls surged in December and the unemployment rate held steady. But that was not enough to keep stocks in positive territory.

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Oil prices fell for a fifth day and Brent lost 10 per cent for the week, while the S&P energy sector also extended this week's slide, ending the day down 1.3 per cent.

Fears of a slowdown in China and the global economy spooked investors this week, creating a turbulent start to the trading year. "The start of the year is very poor, so that's got investors on the defensive," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama. "In the face of weakening global growth ... it's difficult to find reasons to commit money at this point even if one is bullish," he said, adding that he expects stocks to rebound from these oversold conditions next week.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 167.65 points, or 1.02 per cent, to 16,346.45, the S&P 500 lost 21.06 points, or 1.08 per cent, to 1,922.03 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 45.80 points, or 0.98 per cent, to 4,643.63.

The CBOE Volatility Index ended up 8.1 per cent Friday at 27.01, its highest close since Sept. 28.

All 10 S&P 500 sectors ended with declines.

Gap sank 14.3 per cent to US$22.91 after the apparel retailer reported a larger-than-expected drop in December same-store sales, while Container Store slumped 41.2 per cent to US$4.22, a day after storage products retailer's fourth-quarter profit forecast missed estimates.

Apple shares, however, snapped their three-day losing streak and were up 0.5 per cent at US$96.96.

Volume was again heavy. About 8.9 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, well above the 7.3 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

NYSE declining issues outnumbered advancing ones 2,092 to 980, for a 2.13-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 2,018 issues fell and 812 advanced for a 2.49-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and 93 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 13 new highs and 312 new lows.

REUTERS

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