Wall Street advanced in low-volume trading on Monday as revelers gathered to ring in 2019, marking the end of the worst year for the equity markets since 2008, the height of the financial crisis.
Wall Street entered correction territory in late January and was challenged for much of 2018 by tariff jitters, rising interest rates, and fears of diminishing corporate profits.
December was a particularly trying month for the equity markets. The S&P 500 index saw its worst December since the Great Depression and the Nasdaq confirmed it was in a bear market, or 20 percent below its high. All three are down about 9 percent since the beginning of the month.
In the new year, investors hope for the removal of question marks that acted as significant headwinds in 2018, including U.S.-China trade negotiations, the path of U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, slowing corporate growth and economic fallout from the upcoming departure of Britain from the European Union, or Brexit, among other concerns.
On Monday, renewed hopes for a resolution to the U.S.-China trade dispute provided a glimmer of optimism for investors.
Trading volume was relatively light, owing to the holiday as the government shutdown entered its 10th day.
Healthcare and tariff-sensitive technology stocks, led by Boeing and Caterpillar, provided the greatest impetus to the S&P 500 on Monday.
All 11 major sectors in the S&P 500 ended the session in positive territory. But for the year, only healthcare and utilities ended 2018 higher.
Energy, materials, communication services, industrials and financial indexes were the biggest percentage losers of 2018, down between 14.7 percent and 20.5 percent from the beginning of the year.
The 20.5 percent drop of energy stocks in 2018 was largely attributable to crude prices falling 38 percent since early October.
Approximately 7.46 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 9.22 billion share average over the past 20 trading days.