NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks edged lower on the slow last trading session before the New Year as the S&P 500 failed to eke out a gain in 2011, ending the year just 0.04 point in negative territory.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 69 points, or 0.6%, to 12,217.56. IBM (IBM - Get Report), Intel (INTC - Get Report) and Boeing (BA - Get Report) led declines in the Dow as 21 of its 30 components fell. The index finished the year solidly up 5.5%.
The S&P 500 declined 5.4 points, or 0.4%, to 1,257.60. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq erased 8.6 points, or 0.3%, at 2,605.15 to become the only U.S. index to take a loss for the year. The Nasdaq ended 2011 down 1.8%.
The S&P 500 Utilities Index led the benchmark index's 10 industry groups in gains for the year, advancing 15%. Consumer staples and health care shares were also among the top performers.However, the roller coaster ride of the European debt crisis ensured that banks would be the year's worst performer. The S&P 500 Financial Index erased 18% in 2011 as investors worried about debt contagion and the risk of European governments defaulting on their bonds. Concern about global economic stability also sent the materials sector plunging 12% for the year. Reflecting the sector performers, Bank of America (BAC - Get Report) led declines in the Dow for 2011, slipping a remarkable 58%. Between investor concern about the bank's capital, national backlash at an attempt to institute a $5 monthly debit fee and losing the title as the largest U.S. bank by assets to JPMorgan after the third quarter, Bank of America had a tough year. Alcoa (AA - Get Report) fell the second most in the blue-chip index, losing 44%, as global concern about recession in Europe and a slowdown in China end base-materials tumbling. On the opposite end of the spectrum, McDonald's (MCD - Get Report) earned became the Dow's largest gainer. The world's largest fast-food chain surged 31% in 2011 as it managed to do the remarkable and see strong growth in France and Germany. IBM (IBM - Get Report) and Pfizer (PFE - Get Report) were also strong performers, advancing 25% and 24%, respectively, for the year. With no major U.S. economic releases expected today, investors anticipated a quiet last session and many money managers had already checked out, having closed their books for the year. Markets will remain closed on Monday, Jan. 2 in observance of the New Year's holiday for a second consecutive shortened trading week. "Today's action is unsurprisingly tepid as market players dink around with small trades to close the book on 2011," said RealMoney contributor James "Rev Shark" Deporre. "There is little edge, and there won't be until things pick up again next week. Germany's DAX climbed 1.34% while London's FTSE finished up 0.1% in the last half session of trading in Europe. Overnight, Japan's Nikkei Average settled 0.67% higher and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.2%. Worry over an expanding Spanish budget deficit helped push stocks down this morning when the European country announced the deficit will be more than forecast in 2011. "We have found a deficit figure which is much higher than what the former government had targeted," government spokeswoman Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said in Madrid. The budget deficit will grow to 8% of gross domestic product, while the government previously forecast the number at just 6%.
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-- Written by Kaitlyn Kiernan in New York.
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