Wall St opens lower on last day of year as S&P slips into negative territory

Thin volumes expected for session, price of crude oil slips further

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photograph: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photograph: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg


US stock indexes were lower on Thursday, with the S&P 500 slipping back into negative territory for the year, as crude logged in a second year of steep losses. Global stocks were heading towards a sluggish end to the year, with the fall in oil prices hurting currencies of commodity-rich countries. The dollar index rose marginally against a basket of currencies.

Crude oil prices were set for their second year of losses suffering under an unprecedented global glut that may take another year to clear.

Shares of Chevron were off 1 per cent at $89.21, while Exxon was down 0.7 per cent at $77.61. Energy stocks have taken a beating this year, with the S&P energy sector losing nearly 24 per cent this year, followed by a near 10 per cent loss in materials.

Wall Street closed lower on Wednesday but the S&P 500 held on to a small gain for the year and the Nasdaq Composite stayed comfortably higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average was firmly in negative territory for the year.

“You’d expect kind of a dead day (Thursday), but with the way things have gone, who knows?,” said Matthew Tuttle, chief executive, Tuttle Tactical Management in Stamford, Connecticut.

“Trading today is going to be more about oil than anything else,” Tuttle said, adding that volumes were sure to be low.

At 9.36am ET (1436 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 100.18 points, or 0.57 per cent, at 17,503.69, the S&P 500 was down 10.11 points, or 0.49 percent, at 2,053.25 and the Nasdaq Composite index was down 23.10 points, or 0.46 per cent, at 5,042.74.

Apple was down 0.7 per cent at $106.55 and was the biggest drag on the S&P and Nasdaq. McDonald’s was down 1.2 per cent at $118 and weighed on the Dow the most.

All 10 major S&P sectors were lower, led by the 0.87 per cent fall in telecom and 0.86 percent fall in consumer staples sectors. Coca Cola was down 1.6 per cent at $42.90 and weighed on the consumer staples sector the most.

Eight of the 10 worst performers on the S&P this year are energy companies, led by Chesapeake Energy, which shed nearly 78 per cent of its value in 2015.

On the other hand, the consumer discretionary sector has been the best performer on the S&P, rising 9.5 percent in 2015, led by Netflix’s 139 per cent increase and Amazon’s 122 per cent gain.

The top three performers on the Dow are also consumer discretionary stocks, with Nike’s 32 per cent rise taking the lead.

Trading volumes are expected to be thin for the day, and data points sparse, with traders closing off positions for 2015.

US jobless claims increased by 20,000 to 287,000 last week, widely missing the 270,000 estimated.

GoPro was down 0.8 per cent at $18.25 in premarket trading.

Southwestern Energy was up 2.9 per cent at $6.48