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US stocks close lower as 2017 draws to a close

New York, December 30 (IANS): US stocks ended lower on Friday, the last trading day this year.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 118.29 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 24,719.22. The S&P 500 decreased 13.93 points, or 0.52 per cent, to 2,673.61, Xinhua news agency reported. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 46.77 points, or 0.67 per cent, to 6,903.39.


The S&P 500 has gained nearly 19.4 per cent this year, its best year since 2013, with technology and consumer discretionary the top two performers.


The Dow and S&P posted the fifth straight week of gains last week after US President Donald Trump earlier this month signed a $1.5-trillion tax cut bill into law.


The tax bill, the sweeping rewrite of US tax law since 1986, would cut the corporate income tax rate to 21 per cent from the current 35 percent and lower individual income rates.


Trading has been lighter than usual this week as investors get ready for the new year holiday. With no major data came out on Friday, traders paid close attention to the moves in markets such as commodities.


Oil prices rose on Friday, with US crude trading above $60 a barrel, as a decline in US production and commercial crude inventories lifted sentiment.


British stock markets close at a record high

Both the FTSE 100 index of leading blue chip companies and the FTSE 250 reached new records at the close of trading on Friday, BBC reported.


US stock markets have also hit new peaks over the year, helped in part by Donald Trump’s sweeping tax reforms.


Stephen Eckett, author of the annual Harriman Stock Market Almanac, said: “All the dangers that were anticipated with a Trump administration haven’t materialised.” The FTSE 100 finished up 7.6 per cent at 7,687.77 compared with the last day of trading in 2016.


Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 ended 14.7% ahead at 20,726.26 compared with the end of last year.


Eckett said: “It has been a little bit of a surprise to many people that markets were are strong as they were this year.”


George Salmon, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the FTSE 100 had been lifted by natural resource giants such as Shell and BP which have benefitted from a rise in oil prices. Brent crude fell as low as $45 per barrel in June but is now trading at $66.34.


The fall in sterling since Brexit has also boosted earnings since many of the FTSE 100 companies have large operations abroad, said Linda Yueh, a professor of economics at London Business School. “A lot of the rise in the FTSE 100 is because of the weak pound,” she said.