In another roller-coaster week of big gains and rapid declines, the S&P 500 finished the five days ended Dec. 18 with a small decline, slipping 0.34% after giving up a narrow rise for the week heading into the final hour of trading. Despite the Federal Reserve's as-expected 25-basis-point increase in interest rates and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's optimistic outlook for the U.S. economy igniting outsized gains for stocks on Tuesday and Wednesday, the rise and fall of crude oil prices - and by extension, shares of energy companies - remained the biggest influence on market direction, with January crude futures losing 2.19% this week to settle at $34.73 per barrel and dragging energy stocks 2.75% lower by Friday's close.
As has been the case in recent weeks, the cautious tone for trading this week again supported non-cyclical stocks, with shares of consumer staple and health care companies joining utility stocks at the top of the leader board. A 1.03% gain for real estate stocks as a group almost salvaged the week for financial stocks, which ended the week 0.51% lower, although big banks like JPMorgan ( JPM ) and Bank of America ( BAC ) added 0.51% and 0.17% this week, respectively, with rising interest rates seen bolstering future profits.
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