The US stock market is ending a tumultuous year right where it started.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed 2011 a fraction of a point below where it started the year. The S&P closed at 1,257.60, up 5.42 points or 0.4 per cent. It ended 2010 at nearly the exact same level, at 1,257.64. Its loss for the year is 0.04 point.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 69 points, or 0.6 per cent, at 12,218. The Dow is up 5.5 per cent for the year. The Nasdaq composite index fell 9 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 2,605. It lost 1.8 per cent for the year.
McDonald's Corp was the biggest winner in the Dow this year with a gain of 31 per cent. Bank of America Corp was the worst, down 58 per cent.
The conventional wisdom is the more risk, the greater the potential rewards. But the opposite is proving true this year: Investors playing it safe have gained the most.
The most dull and conservative of stocks - utilities - gained 15 per cent, the largest gain of the ten industry sectors in the S&P 500 index. Other winning groups are consumer staples and health care companies, up 11 per cent and 10 per cent in 2011 respectively.
In Europe, many of the biggest markets ended down for the year. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 5.6 per cent, Germany's DAX 14.7 per cent.
Trading has been quiet this week with many investors away on vacation. Volume on the New York Stock Exchange has been about half of its daily average. Markets will be closed Monday in observance of New Year's Day.
Better news on the job market and home sales lifted stocks Thursday, pushing the Dow up 135 points. On Friday Ford reported that its sales topped 2 million this year for the first time since 2007. Ford fell 0.1 per cent.
Rising and falling stocks were about even on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was just 2.2 billion shares, about half of the recent daily average.
In other corporate news:
- Sears Holdings Corp fell 3 per cent to $31.78 after Fitch Ratings downgraded the company's credit rating to "junk." Sears has plunged 30 per cent this week after disclosing that it would close more than 100 Sears and Kmart stores because of weak holiday sales.
- Diamond Foods jumped 2.4 per cent to $32.27. Rumours have been circulating that the hedge fund manager David Einhorn has acquired a stake in the food company that makes Emerald Nuts.
- AMR Corp, the parent company of American Airlines, fell 17 cents to 35 cents. The company filed for bankruptcy protection last month. Late Thursday the company said its stock would be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange next week.
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