CNBC Daily Open: Winners and losers of 2023

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 29: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on the last day of trading for the year on December 29, 2023 in New York City. The Dow was up slightly in morning trading in what has been a strong year for the stock market despite many economists predictions that the American economy would experience a recession. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Spencer Platt | Getty Images News | Getty Images

This report is from today’s CNBC Daily Open, our new, international markets newsletter. CNBC Daily Open brings investors up to speed on everything they need to know, no matter where they are. Like what you see? You can subscribe here.

What you need to know today

Last trading day of 2023
U.S. stocks fell Friday, disappointing investors who were hoping the S&P 500 would close the year on a record high. Still, it was a mighty good year for major indexes. Europe’s Stoxx 600 index added 0.2%, giving it a 12.6% gain for the year. Germany’s DAX posted more impressive gains, rising 20.31% despite the country’s gloomy economic outlook.

Nasdaq rebound
The Nasdaq Composite popped 43% in 2023, its best year since 2020. Only 2020 and 2009 saw bigger gains for the tech-heavy index, which is all the more impressive considering how the Nasdaq plunged 33% in 2022. What changed last year? The biggest story: Investors returned to risk, driven by a surge in generative artificial intelligence and the U.S. Federal Reserve halting rate hikes.

Bullish on bitcoin
Bitcoin rallied about 152% in 2023 despite high-profile criminal cases against cryptocurrency exchanges FTX and Binance. Bitcoin was last trading slightly above $44,000 — and many industry executives think the cryptocurrency’s poised for a new bull run, thanks to an event known as “halving” and the potential approval of a bitcoin exchange-traded fund in the U.S.

Price-sensitive consumers
U.S. companies are losing their pricing power. During the pandemic, consumers splurged on goods — and when the pandemic was over, services, like eating out and traveling, were in hot demand. Companies took advantage of that willingness to spend and increased their prices to pad their earnings. But in 2023, consumers are cutting back — and it’s affecting Wall Street.

[PRO] Things to look forward to
Investors have reason to be optimistic in 2024, writes CNBC’s Sarah Min. The three interest rate cuts that the Federal Reserve has penciled in for this year will likely be a tide that lifts all boats, meaning that last year’s Magnificent Seven-driven rally should broaden out. But not everyone’s so bullish about 2024.

The bottom line

Instead of ending the year with a bang by surpassing its all-time high, the S&P 500 let out a whimper — to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot’s famous lines — and fell 0.28% on the last trading day of 2023.

Other major indexes lost momentum and retreated too. The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched down 0.05% and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.56%.

As with any market move, it’s hard to attribute any definitive reason to it. I think, however, the S&P’s December rally was too reliant on the Federal Reserve’s dovish pivot. Without further positive news, and with the optimism priced in already, the S&P didn’t have a concrete reason to rise further.

Moreover, several analysts have pointed out that stocks are already priced above their fair valuation; that is, the price of a stock may be too high relative to its earnings per share.

“Arguably, the bull market is overbought, and there are too many bulls,” Ed Yardeni of Yardeni Research wrote. Echoing that sentiment, Sarat Sethi, managing partner at DCLA, told CNBC he thinks “valuations are stretched.”

Still, let’s not throw away the baby with the bathwater. Friday’s disappointing session aside, 2023 has been a banner year for a huge swathe of the market. Here are, in my book, the biggest winners and losers of last year:

Winners

  • U.S. indexes: For 2023, the S&P jumped 24.23%, the Dow gained 13.8% and the Nasdaq rocketed 43.42%.
  • Bitcoin: Shrugging off the high-profile criminal cases against FTX and Binance, bitcoin surged around 152%.
  • Gold: The precious metal recorded its first annual gain since 2020 of 13%, as geopolitical risks and peak interest rates made gold shinier to investors.

Losers

Although part of financial journalism necessarily involves making predictions, a quick glance at that list shows how difficult it is to do so. Going into 2023, many thought a recession was in the cards. Instead, markets were dealt a winning hand. Here’s hoping 2024 thwarts all the negative predictions and delivers positive surprises too.

Happy 2024!

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