CNBC: Stocks pare losses; S&P 500 tries to hold green for 2015

Thursday, Dec 31, 2015 12:33pm EST

U.S. stocks traded lower Thursday, the last day of trade for 2015, as investors eyed oil prices.

The Dow Jones industrial average traded about 30 points lower after briefly falling 150 points in morning trade as all constituents declined.

The S&P 500 struggled to hold positive territory for 2015 in intraday trade. Energy recovered and attempted to hold higher as oil tried to stabilize near multi-year lows.

“I think the big moves have already been made and investors are now positioning for next year,” said Adam Sarhan, CEO of Sarhan Capital, noting focus for traders Thursday is likely around the week-to-date, quarter-to-date and year-to-date levels.

With Thursday morning’s decline, the major U.S. averages are on track to end the week little changed, but up at least 7 percent each for the quarter.

The key concern for the day will be whether the S&P 500 manages close higher for 2015, after three-straight years of double-digit gains.

As of Wednesday’s close, the S&P 500 was up 0.22 percent year-to-date and the Nasdaq composite was up 6.96 percent for the year so far. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.23 percent for 2015.

Trade volume so far this week has been among the lowest of the year, and will likely remain thin Thursday ahead of Wall Street’s closure on Friday for the New Year’s Day holiday.

“Probably more urgency to sell than to buy. That’s why we’re down,” said James Meyer, chief investment officer at Tower Bridge Advisors.

“It’s a day of portfolio adjustments. I think you’re going to find some people taking some money off the table and switching to more conservative (assets). So bonds are up and stocks are down,” he said.

Despite a volatile year that saw the major U.S. averages plunge more than 10 percent, the indexes are within 5 percent of their record intraday highs and on pace to end the year little changed to slightly higher.

With the Federal Reserve’s first rate hike out of the way and little economic news in the last two holiday-shortened trading weeks, stock market action has been tightly correlated to moves in oil and other commodities.

Oil held higher in intraday trade but remained near seven-year lows.

Brent and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude reversed earlier declines to trade about 2 percent higher or more above $37 a barrel in late-morning trade.

U.S. crude oil fell more than 3 percent Wednesday to settle below $37 a barrel, contributing to the Dow Jones industrial average’s decline of about 117 points Wednesday.

Natural gas traded about 7 percent higher. Inventories showed a decline of 58 billion cubic feet in the week ended Dec. 25, according to StreetAccount.

In a light day of economic news, the Chicago Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in at 42.9 for December.

Weekly jobless claims came in at 287,000, up from 267,000 the week before.

Treasury yields held lower, with the 2-year yield around 1.05 percent and the 10-year yield near 2.29 percent as of 12:20 p.m., ET.

The U.S. dollar traded higher against major world currencies, with the euro falling below $1.09.

In mid-morning trade, the Dow Jones industrial average declined 148 points, or 0.84 percent, to 17,455, with Apple, Coca-Cola and Microsoftleading all constituents lower.

The S&P 500 declined 17 points, or 0.81 percent, to 2,046, with information technology leading nine sectors lower and energy the only advancer.

The Nasdaq composite declined 43 points, or 0.84 percent, to 5,023.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 18.

About two stocks declined for every advancer on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 118 million and a composite volume of about 477 million.

Crude oil futures for February delivery gained 7 cents to $36.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gold futures for February delivery gained $1.40 to $1,061.20 an ounce as of 10:44 a.m., ET.


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