It has been seven years since S&P 500 stock investors finished the year with less money than when they started the year. The week ahead will determine if 2015 winds up in the green or red.
It hasn’t been a great year to own a broad basket of American stocks. The year began with worries over Greece and Europe hanging over international companies. It’s ending with a depression in oil prices spilling over into energy stocks. And hanging over the market all year was the anticipation the Federal Reserve would finally raise interest rates.
The Fed eventually acted — at its last meeting of the year. OPEC refuses to act on low oil prices, further hurting energy stocks, and Greece’s economic woes no longer threaten to spill over to the rest of Europe thanks to its third bailout in five years.
The S&P 500 fought through all of it. Until it didn’t. That was in August. Since then, the stock index has struggled to regain its 2015 footing. With a week left, this year threatens to be the worst year for investors since 2009. But the two years don’t compare. The year 2009 had the Great Recession, housing collapse and skyrocketing unemployment. If the S&P 500 fails to stage a small year-end rally (and it only needs about 1 percent to finish with a positive yearly price performance) it will end a six-year stretch of higher prices. Regardless, 2015 will end three years of double-digit annual rallies.
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A year in which the stock market finishes essentially where it began is another reason why long-term, diversified thinking is an asset in any market.
Financial journalist Tom Hudson hosts The Sunshine Economy on WLRN-FM in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @HudsonsView.