Stocks score hat trick: Post 3rd year of 10%-plus gains


By  Adam Shell

​Grab a champagne flute and a bottle of bubbly. It was, for most investors, a very happy 2014 on Wall Street.

Despite some dips – and scares – along the way, U.S. stocks had another record-breaking year, with U.S. stocks posting a third straight year of 10%-plus gains, the first time it has scored a performance hat trick of that magnitude since the last great bull market in the late 1990s.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 11.4% in 2014, building on a nearly 30% gain last year and a 13.4% rise in 2012 and putting the bull that began in March 2009 on track to celebrate its sixth birthday early in 2015. Along the way the large-company stock index racked up 53 record highs, powered by the utilities sector, a group of stocks known more for their plump dividends than big upside, which gained more than 24%.

Every type of stock index – ranging from the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average (up 7.5%) to the tech-packed Nasdaq composite (up 13.4%) to the small-company Russell 2000 (up 3.5%) – finished in the black. Eight of the 10 major S&P 500 sectors finished higher, with the biggest loser – the energy sector – tumbling around 10% amid a 46% plunge in crude prices, the worst selloff in the oil patch since the 2008 financial crisis.

Big gainers include health care (up 23%) and information technology, which jumped 18%.

For the Dow, it was its sixth straight year of gains, its second-longest streak and best since the 1990s, according to Bespoke Investment Group.

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