Market Wrap: A Muddled Start for the New Year

GM-Sales Boost
LM Otero/AP

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks closed little changed on Friday in the first trading session of 2015, finishing well off session highs as economic data short-circuited early gains.

In a sign of tepid economic conditions, construction spending unexpectedly fell 0.3 percent in November, while the pace of growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector slipped to a six-month low in December, according to the Institute for Supply Management.

"The data we got out today basically dampened early enthusiasm," said Peter Cardillo, chief marketeconomist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York. "It's just a little bit of softness but I don't think it changes the outlook for a stronger economy."

Markets had opened higher in a broad rally, but indexes later lost ground. Volume was light in the wake of the New Year's holiday, which often exacerbates market volatility. About 5.29 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, well below the 6.87 billion average last month, according to BATS Global Markets. For the week, the Dow (^DJI) closed down 1.2 percent, the S&P 500 (^GPSC)off 1.5 percent and the Nasdaq off 1.7 percent.

Energy Shares Up; Oil Prices Down

Energy shares gained 0.4 percent, alternating between gains and losses alongside choppy trading in crude oil. Exxon Mobil (XOM) rose 0.4 percent to $92.83, and Kinder Morgan (KMP) gained 1.2 percent to $42.81 to lead the sector higher. U.S. crude settled down 58 cents at $52.69 for its 13th negative week out of the past 14, and is at levels not seen since 2009. Brent crude settled down 91 cents at $56.42 a barrel.

General Motors (GM) shed 0.2 percent to $34.84 after the automaker announced three new vehicle recalls, the biggest involving the ignition-switch design of several SUV and pickup truck models.

Weight Watchers International (WTW) fell more than 13 percent on Friday, continuing a string of losses as the company tries to boost sales, which in October hit a four-year low. The stock has lost almost a quarter of its value in the last eight trading sessions.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 9.92 points, or 0.06 percent, to 17,832.99, the S&P 500 lost 0.7 points, or 0.03 percent, to 2,058.2 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 9.24 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,726.81. Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE 1,696 to 1,376, for a 1.23-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,555 issues fell and 1,185 advanced for a 1.31-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 9 new 52-week highs and six new lows; the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) recorded 60 new highs and 24 new lows.

Euro Slips

The euro slipped to its lowest against the dollar in 4½ years, to $1.2003. The decline came after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi indicated that the bank could support a government bond-buying program to combat alarmingly low inflation in the eurozone.

Investors have a number of concerns about Europe as 2015 begins. Growth is anemic in the region and an election in Greece on Jan. 25 could re-ignite the country's debt crisis if an anti-austerity party wins.

The Associated Press contributed to this post.

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