NEW YORK — U.S. stocks halted a two-day rally as thin trading added to already-volatile markets ahead of the weekend.
Treasuries rose. The S&P 500 ended the session lower, but held onto its first weekly gain in a month. According to numbers posted just after the closing bell, the Dow Jones industrial average finished at 23,062.27, down a fraction of a percent.
Trading was still volatile after a roller-coaster session Thursday that saw the biggest reversal since 2010. The holiday-shortened week began with the worst pre-Christmas day on record before stocks notched the biggest one-day surge in almost a decade. The benchmark is on track for its worst year of the bull market.
“You’re in a period of high unknown right now,” Jeremy Bryan, portfolio manager at Gradient Investments, said in an interview. “It’s the market trying to find bottoms and trying to find its footing. That’s why we’re seeing such volatile swings in this tape. It’s just right now there seems to be a lot more consternation, which is why you’re seeing markets reacting violently both ways.”
Global stocks are set for the worst year since 2008 and oil is mired in its steepest quarterly slump since 2014. Plenty of event risks loom in the coming year, from the U.K. vote on the Brexit deal to U.S.-China trade talks to the continuing showdown between President Donald Trump and Congress over the budget.
“We’re heading into a period of higher volatility,” said Manpreet Gill, head of fixed income, currency and commodities strategy at Standard Chartered Plc in Singapore. “You need to have some dry powder on the side to take advantage of that. That’s where we particularly think that cash plays a bit of a role.”
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 saw its largest one-day rally since April. Japanese shares declined, while stocks in China saw modest advances. Japanese 10-year yields dipped below zero. West Texas intermediate crude bounced with emerging market equities.
Japan and China had their final trading day of the year Friday. Aside from any further developments on the American political front -- where departures of senior officials and tensions at the White House over the Federal Reserve have unsettled investors, upcoming manufacturing PMIs from China and the U.S. may be a focus in the coming week.