Stock traders, specialists and clerks on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shed no tears today as they bid farewell to 1984, expressing hope that 1985 will be a better year on Wall Street.
Trading was so slow on the New York Futures Exchange that some clerks were playing cards and drinking beer early yesterday afternoon before the final bell rang to end the trading day.
Several floor brokers said that in prior years, the final day of trading was hectic as investors sold securities for tax purposes, but even year-end tax trading seemed unusually slow this year, they said.
Wall Street workers said they believe the market will perform better in 1985 because interest rates have come down, inflation is under control and economic activity has been stronger than anticipated recently. The index of leading economic indicators rose 1.3 percent in November, its best gain since February.
However, there is concern that despite all the good news, the small investor will not return to the stock market in 1985. One trader noted that even institutional investors, which account for about 70 percent of stock market volume, had a poor year in 1984. If professional investors are having trouble making money in the market, small stock buyers are likely to stay on the sidelines in 1985, he suggested.
"Right now all the news is good," said Michael J. Ciano Jr., a floor broker with Josephtal & Co. "Inflation is under control, interest rates are lower than they've been and the economy is growing. Yet the tape is telling us that something is wrong. Any good trader knows not to fight the tape. It could be concern about the deficit or possibly about the Treasury's tax program."
William H. Abrams, a director of the New York Stock Exchange and a partner of Stern Bros., said many firms expanded too rapidly and found themselves overstaffed in 1984 as volume moderated and the exchange's trading system became more automated. Abrams said he is concerned that the small investor will not come back into the market in 1985 because of the growing power of institutions and the resulting volatility in the price of stocks.
He expressed hope that as interest rates fall, the small investor will find bonds less attractive relative to stocks as a place to invest. "I hate to leave any year behind but this has been a difficult year to trade in," Abrams said. "I'm hoping for a better market in 1985."
After relaxed traders finished singing a round of "Wait 'til the Sun Shines Nellie," David V. Shields, president of the Alliance of Floor Brokers, noted that 1985 should be a good year on Wall Street because "every year ending in 5 goes up." However, Shields said the "every year ending in 5 theory" is in competition with the theory that the "market always has a sell-off in the year following the election of a Republican president with the exception of 1925. . . . "
Perhaps the most optimistic person on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on the final day of 1984 was John J. Phelan Jr., the exchange's chairman, who was wishing his colleagues a happy, healthy and prosperous 1985. When asked to comment on 1985, Phelan hesitated momentarily, smiled and then said confidently, "I think we'll do double the volume of this year."