U.S. stocks end tough January with another decline

January 31

Stock investors were hit from all sides in January.

Concerns about the global economy and U.S. company earnings, as well as turmoil in emerging markets, led the Dow Jones industrial average to its worst start since 2009. However, many investors remain hopeful that the problems will not spill over into the rest of 2014.

They even see the downturn as healthy, given the U.S. market’s rapid rise last year.

The Dow slid 5.3 percent in January while the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell 3.6 percent and the Nasdaq composite declined 1.7 percent.

On Friday, the U.S. stock market closed out January on a down note. The Dow fell 149.76 points, or 0.9 percent, to 15,698.85. The S&P 500 dropped 11.60 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1782.59, and the Nasdaq lost 19.25 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4103.88.

Investors entered the year with skepticism and nervousness. The stock market went basically straight up in 2013. The S&P 500 ended 2013 with a gain of nearly 30 percent, its best year since 1997.

Many investors expected 2014 to be a more muddled and volatile year for the market. Market strategists late last year were looking for the S&P 500 to notch a modest gain of 4 to 6 percent.

Investors were also looking for more pullbacks this year and possibly a correction, the technical term for when a stock market index such as the S&P 500 falls 10 percent or more. Three months ago, analysts at Goldman Sachs said that there was about a 60 percent chance that a correction would happen this year.

But many investors were surprised by January’s turbulence. With one exception, the Dow had triple-digit moves every trading day in January. Still, with the broader S&P 500 index down just 3.6 percent from its Jan. 15 peak, the downturn is hardly severe.

Investors point to the December jobs report, released Jan. 10, as the event that started the troubles. The U.S. government said that employers created only 74,000 jobs in December, the worst month for job creation since 2011 and far below expectations.

Wall Street is in the middle of earnings season, when major corporations report results for the final three months of the year. Half of S&P 500 members have reported, and results have been mixed. Fourth-quarter corporate earnings are up a respectable 7.9 percent from a year earlier. But of the companies that have reported, 44 have cut their full-year profit outlooks, while 10 have increased their outlooks, according to data from FactSet.

— Associated Press

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