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Market Recap: S&P Squeaks by for the Year but Nasdaq Closes Lower

Markets closed down on Wall Street today:

  • Dow -0.57 percent
  • S&P -0.43 percent
  • Nasdaq -0.33 percent
  • Oil -0.59 percent
  • Gold +1.69 percent

On the commodities front:

  • Oil (NYSE:USO) ticked down to $99.05 a barrel
  • Gold (NYSE:GLD) rising to $1,567 an ounce
  • Silver (NYSE:SLV) climbed 2 percent to settle at $27.87

(Related: The Dogs of the Dow Retrieve Returns for Owners.)

Today’s markets were down because:

1) Friday: It’s the last day of trading in 2011, news is scarce, and people are ready to say goodbye to a year rife with economic and political turmoil. After all the headlines and volatility this year, the S&P 500 finished flat, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 5.6 percent higher.

Stocks had a lackluster year, and are ending in that same vein after a relatively quiet day of trading. Though low volume, typical of the holiday week, has led to more pronounced swings this week, it seems most investors have already taken off for the weekend.

2) Financial: Throughout the year, financial stocks have continued to be some of the biggest movers, and are largely responsible for huge fluctuations on the S&P 500, of which they account for 14 percent. This week the S&P 500 clawed its way back in the green for 2011, but owing no thanks to Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, or Morgan Stanley all of which declined more than 40 percent this year.

Bank of America shares decided to break tradition and climb higher. Although shares closed 1.83 percent higher on the day, shares fell 58 percent year-to-date. Other major financial players such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley closed lower on Friday.

3) Treasuries: While stocks may have had a lackluster year, Treasuries managed to log the biggest gains since 2008. Treasuries are poised to beat equities, commodities, and the dollar for the year as Europe’s sovereign debt crisis continues to drive demand for safe-haven investments.

[Editor’s note: portions of the above originally appeared on Wall St. Cheat Sheet.]

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