- Stock indices continued their rise in December, at a more modest pace than in November. The Dow rose 1.8%, the Nasdaq Composite edged up 0.4% and the S&P 500 rose 1%. For the year, the three indices outpaced expectations and posted their best gains since 2013. The Dow Jones traded through milestone after milestone, closing out the year with a near 5,000 point gain. The bull market, nearly nine years old, is now the second longest and second strongest in history.
- Global stock benchmarks rose to multiyear highs. For the year, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 36%, India’s Sensex rose 28%, and South Korea’s Kospi rose 22%, the best point gains for those indeces since 2009. Japan’s Nikkei rose 19% in 2017, the most since 2013, and London’s export-heavy FTSE 100 climbed 7.6%, ending the year at a record.
- Cryptocurrency! Bitcoin, the first decentralized digital currency, became one of the market’s greatest speculative crazes. Bitcoin value rose from $970 early in the year to nearly $20,000 in December. Increasing volatility brought a year end close of $14,292. Rival Ethereum rose about 5,000%, from $8 to nearly $400. Blockchain, the technology that maintains the Bitcoin transaction ledger, is in early stages; trustworthiness, reliability and usage remain to be seen.
* This commentary reflects the opinions of Welch & Forbes based on information that we believe to be reliable. It is intended for informational purposes only, and not to suggest any specific performance or results, nor should it be considered investment, financial, tax or other professional advice. It is not an offer or solicitation.
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