US Stocks Inch Lower in Subdued Trade

(AP) -- Stocks were slightly lower in thin trading Friday, closing out what has turned out to be another banner year for Wall Street. Energy and banks were among the biggest gainers, a common occurrence for the last month.

The S&P 500 index was down 0.2% as of 11:15 a.m. Eastern, flipping between small gains and losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down less than 0.2% and the Nasdaq composite was down 0.3%.

2021 has been a strong year for stock investors. The S&P 500, which hit its latest record high on Wednesday, is heading for a gain of roughly 27% for the year, or 29% including dividends. That's nearly as much as the index gained in 2019.

It's also been an eventful year. A wave of consumer demand fueled by the reopening of economies pumped up corporate profits more than expected, which helped keep investors in a buying mood. There was also intense interest in so-called "meme stocks," in which large groups of individual investors bought up shares of beaten-down companies like GameStop and AMC Entertainment, causing institutional investors like hedge funds to lose billions.

The Federal Reserve and other central banks also helped prop up the market by keeping interest rates extremely low, which makes borrowing money more affordable for both companies as well as consumers.

There are still plenty of challenges going into 2022. They include rising inflation, global supply chain disruptions and outbreaks of more contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus..

Trading was very slow. Most investors will not pick up trading until next week, or once fourth-quarter earnings reports start being released in early January.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note inched down to 1.50% from 1.51% Thursday. The bond market will close early, but stock trading will operate on a normal schedule.