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Market aims for three days of gains

Stocks are aiming to close higher Friday. If successful, the market will close higher three days in a row for the first time this December.

Posted: Dec 29, 2018 1:53 PM
Updated: Dec 29, 2018 1:58 PM

Capping a week of wild trading on Wall Street, stocks ended Friday on a quiet note.

The Dow fell 76 points, or about 0.3%, and the S&P fell 0.1%. The Nasdaq rose slightly.

The Dow's decline followed two consecutive days of rises. The Dow failed to increase three days in a row in December.

Stocks often finish December with rallies, but this isn't a typical December. Huge swings in both directions have sent investors' heads spinning. The Dow had its worst-ever Christmas Eve on Monday, only to post its best-ever point gain when trading resumed on Wednesday. Stocks were sharply lower for most of Thursday before roaring back at the close to finish the day in positive territory.

In a quiet week for news, market analysts say extreme volatility has been driven by thin trading volume and stocks hitting technical limits that rapidly drive sentiment from fear to greed and back again.

"As the market continues to worry about a recession, the implications of a trade war with China, and unpredictable and adverse political decision-making from the White House, we are going to continue to see volatility," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance.

Despite this week's gains, December has been a miserable month for stocks. The S&P 500 came within inches of entering a bear market multiple this week. This December is the worst for stocks since 1931.

"The rough market has worn on the psyches of investors," said Scott Wren, senior global equities strategist for Wells Fargo, in a note to clients. "This year turned quickly from meeting our expectations for the S&P 500 to falling well short of those expectations over the course of a few short weeks."

European markets rose by about 2% Friday, while stocks in Asia eked out smaller gains.

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