Stocks slip, close year mixed; oil ends ugly 2015 with slight gain

Thu Dec 31, 2015 4:34pm EST
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By David Gaffen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock and bond markets in major economies closed 2015 with a mixed performance, while oil prices and emerging markets cemented big losses during a year that provided few safe places for investors.

While equity markets in Japan and Western Europe gained strongly amid ongoing ultra-easy monetary policy, concerns about global growth and a robust U.S. dollar crushed petroleum prices and took down emerging markets, copper and other metals.

Fixed-income posted a middling performance, as riskier high-yield securities fell, largely due to exposure to weakened energy credits. Short-dated U.S. Treasury yields rose.

The MSCI All-World Index was down 0.7 percent, and closed the year with a loss of 4.2 percent.

For Wall Street's most widely followed average, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, it was down to the last day of trading to determine whether the year would end negative or not. The benchmark index lost nearly 1 percent for the day, giving its price a 0.7 percent loss for 2015. Including dividends, it posted a positive total return for a seventh straight year.

The market's ups and downs this year were triggered by worries about oil, global growth and the Federal Reserve. The uncertainty surrounding the U.S. central bank's plans dominated the last several months of trading, and some were glad to see it finally begin raising rates.

"I think that now that the Fed finally did something it will calm the intraday jitters a bit at least for the first six months, and hopefully see investors more committed to positions rather than nervous to hold anything," said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1 percent to 17,425.03, the S&P 500 lost 0.94 percent to 2,043.92 and the Nasdaq Composite fell 1.15 percent to 5,007.41.   Continued...

A trader wears plastic glasses to celebrate the last trading day of 2015 while working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York December 31, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson