For the US stock markets, 2015 turned out to be the worst year after the economic downturn of 2008. Equities ended a volatile year marginally lower than where it started the year and consequently reduced the expectations for 2016.
The Dow Jones shed 2.2% while the S&P lost 0.7%. 2015 also marked the first year of loss for the Dow since 2008. However, Nasdaq, the tech-heavy index rose by 5.7% and was the singular major index in the US to record a rise.
But, the near flat finish for the broader markets notwithstanding, 2015 had its share of some notable moves up and down. Throughout the year, the performance of the market was impacted by expectations of the FED raising interest rates, continuing downtrend in oil prices, and a slowdown in some major emerging markets. Oil was the worst suffered ending the year with a loss of 30% and the US oil winding up at $37 per barrel.
Six out of the ten S&P 500 sectors experienced losses during the year, and that includes a drop of over 23% for the S&P 500 energy index. Utilities also fell 8% and materials index shed about 10%.
Stocks from the consumer discretionary sector including hotel companies, retailers, and car manufacturers were among the winners notching about 8% gain for the year. This sector received a boost from consumers who had more cash for spending either from new jobs or the savings from lower gasoline prices. Healthcare stocks also had a healthy year with the index adding 5%.
In commodities, oil led the fall but was not alone in the southbound journey. Gold lost about 11% and registered losses for the 3rd consecutive year. Copper followed suit with a 25% fall. Agricultural commodities such as wheat and corn too lost 24 and 17 percent respectively. This was attributed largely to weaker global demand and partly to the slower growth of economies in the emerging markets.
Individual stocks also witnessed wide differences. During the year, some 40% stocks from the S&P 500 moved in either direction by 20%. Some two-thirds of stocks in this category experienced moves of a minimum 10%. Winners in this segment include Amazon, and Netflix, which registered a gain of 118 and 134 percent respectively. Micron with a 59% fall and Western Digital with 45% were among the stocks that suffered the worst losses. Apple too shed over 4% registering an annual loss for the first time since 2008.