A surprisingly good vintage as market logs gains
By Steve Rothwell, APNEW YORK--If you'd told investors what was going to happen in 2012 — U.S. economic growth at stall speed, an intensifying European debt crisis, a slowdown in China, fiscal deadlock in Washington, decelerating corporate earnings growth — and asked how the stock market would perform, few would have predicted a good year.
January 2, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
But that's just what they got.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard & Poor's 500 and the Nasdaq composite index all ended the year substantially higher, despite losing ground in the final days of year as concerns about the looming “fiscal cliff” mounted.
The Dow gained 7 percent for the year, its fourth consecutive annual advance, having started the year at 12,217. The S&P 500, which started the year at 1,257, is up 13 percent, beating the 7.8-percent average annual gain of the past 20 years. The Nasdaq also logged a better-than-average gain, 16 percent.
Including dividends, the total return on the S&P 500 index was even better: 16 percent.
Financial companies led the gains among S&P 500 stocks, advancing 26 percent, as banks continued their restructuring efforts after the recession. Bank of America more than doubled, gaining US$6.05 to US$11.61 and Citigroup advanced US$13.25, or 50 percent, to US$39.56. Utilities, the best-performing industry group last year, was the only sector of 10 industry groups in the index to decline, dropping 2.9 percent.
“There's been a lot thrown at this market, and it's proven to be very resilient,” said Gary Flam, a portfolio manager at Bel Air Investment Advisors in California. “Here we are at the end of the year, and it's still relatively strong.”
Stocks started the year on a tear, with optimism about an improving job market and a broader economic recovery providing the backdrop to the S&P 500's best first-quarter rally in 14 years.
The index advanced 12 percent by the end of March, closing the quarter at 1,408, its highest in almost four years, with financial companies and technology firms leading the charge. The Dow ended the first quarter at 13,212, logging an 8-percent gain.