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Stocks were mixed to start 2015 — though the Nasdaq and S&P 500 lost some ground — with the major equity indexes opening the day sharply higher, giving up all of their gains, though the Dow moved back into positive territory at the end of the day.
First, the scoreboard:
Dow: 17,8323, +9.9, (+0.06%)
S&P 500: 2,058.2, -0.7, (-0.03%)
Nasdaq: 4,726.8, -9.2, (-0.2%)
And now, the top stories on Friday:
1. It was a weird start to the year, as markets were closed around the world in observation of the New Year's holiday on Thursday, with volume light on what marked the first trading day of the year, but the last trading day of a slow holiday week. According to Charlie Brown at the NYSE, just about 650 million shares had traded hands as of midday, one of the slowest days of the year — well, including the year we just finished, too.
2. The economic calendar wasn't barren on the first trading day of the year, as we got manufacturing reports from both Markit and ISM, which showed that manufacturing activity remained in expansionary territory but slowed down in December. Markit's report came in at 53.9, the slowest pace of expansion since January 2014, while ISM's manufacturing PMI came in at 55.5, down from 58.7 in November.
3. With a late session rally, the S&P 500 tried to avoid doing something it hadn't done since 2008, which was finish one year with a down day and start the next year with losses. In a note on Friday, MKM's Jonathan Krinsky said that this has happened 10 times since 1980, with the average return for the S&P 500 coming at around 7% after this occurrence.
4. Oil had a wild day to start 2015, in-line with what the commodity has seen happen over the second half of 2014. In early trade on Friday, West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell to $52.03 a barrel, the lowest since April 2009. WTI rallied back above $53 through the afternoon but into the close was hovering at around $52.70 a barrel.
5. Mario Draghi made headlines on Friday, telling German-language magazine Handelsblatt that the European Central Bank is "making technical preparations" to change its asset purchase program, which many in the market took as a sign the ECB is preparing for a full sovereign QE program, or the outright purchase of government securities. Following these headlines and the re-opening of markets on Friday, the euro fell to new lows against the US dollar, testing the 1.20 level, its lowest in years.