US stock indexes end 2011 in a draw

As we start the New Year, we are going to continue to see this struggle grab the headlines. The market is set to open higher on Tuesday thanks to positive data from China and Germany, but the economic woes of this past year are not going to be solved overnight... or anytime soon for that matter.

Although the market has performed quite well in light of things, in the U.S. this can largely be attributed to the fact that in comparison to Europe, the U.S. markets have looked quite peachy. And in many respects, things have been looking up. As companies cut spending, looking for ways to keep costs down, they've seen a decent overall earnings season.

Unfortunately, these victories have not been passed down. Spending cuts have meant leaner companies that have also cut labor costs, which have done nothing to help unemployment. And it's the middle class, who have seen most of their wealth wiped out in the housing fiasco, who are continuing to feel the greatest pressure. On Friday, it's expected that the unemployment rate will once again tick higher.

S&P 500 (Figure 2)

Index Wrap-up

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ($DJI) ended the day on Friday with a loss of 69.48 points, or 0.57%, and closed at 12,217.56. Only seven of the Dow's thirty index components ended the session in the black. The strongest performers were Bank of America (BAC) (+1.83%) and Hewlett Packard (HPQ) (+0.55%). The weakest were IBM (IBM) (-1.24%), Intel (INTC) (-1.22%), and Boeing (BA) (-1.03%).

The Dow ended the year with a gain of 5.53%. Tee strongest performers for the year were McDonalds (MCD), IBM (IBM), and Pfizer (PFE). The weakest were Bank of America (BAC), Alcoa (AA), and Hewlett-Packard.

The S&P 500 ($SPX) finished the session with a loss of 5.42 points, or 0.43%, and closed at 1,257.60. The strongest individual percentage performers in the index were MetroPCS Communications (PCS) (+5.34%), Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) (+3.71%), and United States Steel Corp. (X) (+3.08%). The weakest were Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) (-3.4%), Leggett & Platt (LEG) (-3.23%), and Rowan Cos. Inc. (RDC) (-2.22%).

The S&P 500 ended the year flat. The strongest performers for the year were Cabot Oil & Gas (COG), El Paso (EP), and Intuitive Surgical (ISRG). The major losers were First Solar (FSLR), Monster Worldwide (MWW), and Alpha Natural Resources (ANR).

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