A late burst of selling left stocks with a hefty loss Thursday at the end of what was otherwise a banner year, highlighted by the biggest annual percentage gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in six year. The Dow ended near its intraday lows, down 120.46 points, or 1.1%, at 10428.05. The blue-chip measure ended 2009 with an 18.8% gain, though it is still down 26.4% from its all-time record set in October 2007.In the day’s most closely watched economic announcement, the Labor Department said that weekly jobless claims fell by 22,000 to their lowest level in 18 months. Economists had expected a rise of about 3,000. The report reinforced Wall Street’s belief that a U.S. economic recovery is taking hold, but it also spurred some speculation about when the Federal Reserve might raise its key rate target to prevent inflation. That catch-22 is likely to remain a key consideration for traders well into 2010.
By Peter A. McKay and Donna Kardos Yesalavich, Dec 31, 2009

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