Stocks closed out a bruising 2018 with gains on New Year’s Eve but the rally wasn’t enough to help the market avoid its biggest annual loss in 10 years.
The Dow Jones industrial average, which rallied 265 points in the year’s final trading day, finished 2018 with a loss of 5.6 percent, its worst decline since a 33.8 percent drop in 2008. The broad Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index fell 6.2 percent in 2018, its worst performance in a decade.
Despite Monday’s rally, which was sparked by signs of progress in trade talks between the U.S. and China, the S&P 500 still posted its biggest December decline since 1931 and narrowly dodged its first bear market since 2009 on its way to its worst annual performance since the financial crisis.
In a tweet over the weekend, President Donald Trump said he spoke with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about the trade dispute between the world’s two biggest economies and that “Big progress was being made!” That news was greeted positively by investors, as slowing economic growth, due in part to tariffs and trade-related uncertainty, has weighed heavily on stocks.
Wall Street experienced highs and lows in 2018, with the S&P 500 notching its longest bull run in history on its way to a record high in late September. But it morphed into a treacherous year for investors, as the stock market suffered two corrections – or drops of 10 percent or more from prior highs. The benchmark stock gauge on Christmas Eve also came within two tenths of a percentage point of tumbling 20 percent from its peak on a closing basis and into bear market territory.
“That sure felt like a bear,” said John Lynch, chief investment strategist at LPL Financial.
That narrow miss kept the bull market, which began in March 2009, intact.
Volatility returned to Wall Street with a vengeance in the final three months of the year, with stocks cratering under the weight of fears of recession, concern about the Federal Reserve hiking interest rates, trade war uncertainties and signs of a global economic slowdown.