U.S. Stocks Edging Lower

(AP) -

U.S. stocks moved lower on the last day of the year as the market headed for a sluggish end to 2015. The modest losses in afternoon trading Thursday nudged the Standard & Poor’s 500 index back into the red for the year. Utilities stocks were among the biggest decliners.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 79 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,524 as of 1:20 p.m. Eastern time. The S&P 500 index shed seven points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,055. The Nasdaq composite lost 28 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,037. Trading was lighter than usual ahead of Friday’s legal holiday.

SECTOR VIEW: Nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index were down, led by a 1.9 percent decline in utilities stocks. Energy stocks, which have been battered recently as commodities prices sank, edged higher as oil prices rebounded.

THE YEAR: 2015 is shaping up to be the worst year for the market since 2011. With dividends included, the S&P 500 index is on track for a total return of 2.4 percent for the year. Four years ago the index had an even more meager return of 2.1 percent. Last year it returned 13.7 percent.

The Nasdaq is up 6.4 percent, while the Dow is on track to end 2015 with a loss of 1.7 percent.

THE QUOTE: “It’s a lousy end to a pretty lousy year,” said Edward Campbell, portfolio manager for QMA, a unit of Prudential Investment Management. “A very unrewarding year.”

ENERGY: Crude oil and natural gas prices rose, recovering some of their losses from the day before. Benchmark U.S. crude climbed 98 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $37.58 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained $1.27, or 3.5 percent, to $37.73 a barrel in London. Natural gas added 14 cents, or 6.3 percent, to $2.35 per 1,000 cubic feet.

GAINERS & LOSERS: Mosaic declined the most among companies in the S&P 500, shedding 67 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $27.68. Southwestern Energy led the gainers, adding 64 cents, or 10.2 percent, to $6.94.

OIL PLAY: NuStar Energy gained 3.3 percent on news that the energy company will be part of the first U.S. crude export in 40 years, following a move to lift a ban on exporting U.S. oil. The stock added $1.25 to $38.80.

OVERSEAS MARKETS: In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.5 percent, putting it down 4.9 percent for the year. France’s CAC-40 fared better in 2015, with an 8.5 percent gain after slipping 0.9 percent on Thursday. Germany’s main stock market, which was closed Thursday for the holiday, ended the year with a 9.6 percent gain. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.9 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.1 percent.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.27 percent from 2.30 percent a day earlier. The dollar fell to 120.21 yen from 120.55 yen, while the euro fell to $1.0882 from $1.0924.