MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Struggle To Close Out 2017 On An Uptrend

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch , Ryan Vlastelica Features Dow Jones Newswires

Dow on track for 9th straight monthly gain, longest streak since 1959

Continue Reading Below

U.S. stocks benchmarks fought to retain early, slight gains on Friday, suggesting that Wall Street might end an otherwise stellar year for equity gains with a whimper in light trading volumes.

What are stock indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up gains to fall 21 points, or 0.1%, to 24,814. The blue-chip average closed at a record on Thursday--its 71st of the year, a record.

The S&P 500 fell about 2 points, or 0.1%, to 2,685. The benchmark indexes is about less than a percentage point from its own record.

The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 12 point. pr 0.2%, at 6,938.

Continue Reading Below

For the year, the Dow is up nearly 26%, the S&P has gained about 20%, and the Nasdaq is up 29%. All three are on track for their best year since 2013.

What is driving the markets?

Trading has been muted in recent days, with volumes some of the lowest of the year, and traders are likely to remain on vacation until after the New Year's holiday on Monday. On average, trading volumes in 2017 hit a three-year low (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stock-trading-volume-hit-a-three-year-low-in-2017-amid-near-absent-volatility-2017-12-21) amid near-absent volatility (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-last-time-stocks-were-this-quiet-was-the-year-the-beatles-went-on-ed-sullivan-2017-12-14).

However, the late-session rally on Thursday and Friday morning's positive mood suggested that investors aren't ready to dump stocks going into next year.

Moreover, expectations are growing that President Donald Trump's administration will shift attention to a $1 trillion infrastructure-spending bill, which could deliver a further jolt to Wall Street buying after Republicans passed the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years as well as a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded into early 2018.

Additionally, the dollar has fallen sharply this week, which is good news for the big American exporters. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index was down 0.3% on Friday, deepening its 2017 loss to 9.7%--its largest yearly slide since 2003 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dollar-set-to-suffer-worst-year-since-2003-with-10-yearly-loss-2017-12-29).

There are no major economic data releases on deck on Friday.

What are analysts saying?

"The consistency we saw in stocks throughout the year was incredible, and it looks like today will be the same," said Craig Birk, executive vice president of portfolio management at Personal Capital, which manages $5.5 billion in assets.

"It's a continuation of a trend we've seen the whole year. People are still digesting the tax bill, which is positive for stocks, although the general muted reaction suggests that most of it is already reflected in the market. Valuations are high, historically, which is a headwind, but if you normalize for interest rates and what the tax bill may do to prop up earnings and lower P/Es, they're not scarily high."

Which stocks are in focus?

Progenics Pharmaceuticals Inc.(PGNX) rose 13% after the company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has accepted for review its new drug application (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/progenics-shares-jump-21-premarket-after-fda-says-it-will-review-treatment-for-rare-cancer-2017-12-29) for Azedra in patients with rare neuroendocrine tumors.

Shares of Netflix Inc.(NFLX) lost 0.1%. The online-streaming service said on Thursday it plans to increase the annual salary (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/netflix-gives-top-executives-a-big-raise-citing-the-new-tax-law-as-the-reason-2017-12-28) for a number of its top executives in 2018, citing the recently passed tax overhaul for the change.

The day's moves were slight, with most S&P 500 sectors moving 0.1% or less. The biggest gainer, consumer staples, was up 0.3% on the day. Altria Group Inc. (MO) rose 0.2% on the day while Coca-Cola Co. (KO) rose 0.8%.

What are other markets doing?

Oil prices rose (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-set-to-finish-2017-at-2-12-year-highs-natural-gas-soars-again-2017-12-29), with West Texas Intermediate up 0.4% and on track for its highest close in 2 1/2 years.

Metals were mixed, with gold up 0.6% at $1,305.30 an ounce.

Asian stocks closed out 2017 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nikkei-cruises-on-final-trading-day-capping-impressive-yearly-gains-across-asia-2017-12-28) in mostly upbeat fashion, while European markets struggled for direction.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 29, 2017 10:24 ET (15:24 GMT)