Wall Street closed a wild year on a low note, surrendering nearly 1 percent on the last day of 2009 despite picking up more than 20 percent on the year.
With trading thin and in a tight range as investors were set to pop the cork and celebrate a successful year, major averages plunged in the final hour of trading in a year that saw stocks hit a frightening low in March then stage a stunning rebound.
Banks were a New Year's Eve bright spot, with Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase among the sector leaders.
But pharmaceuticals and computer companies got hammered, with Dell falling about 3 percent. Microsoft and Amazon.com were among other big-name tech companies to take a beating on the day.
Commodity stocks gained as the dollar faded. The SPDR Gold Trust ETF was higher as gold prices hovered around $1,100 an ounce.
On the Dow only JPMorgan and Bank of America finished in positive territory; it was a bit of irony to close out the year as bank stocks were the only sector to lose in 2009. Caterpillar was atop the group in red numbers and Hewlett-Packard also lagged.
The day was the bluechips' worst performance in two weeks.
Consumer stocks mostly performed well early, with over-the-counter drug distributor Perrigo among the group's biggest gainers.
Trading was almost indetectable, with a meager 637 million shares or so changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange. Market breadth was broadly negative, with losers beating gainers 2 to 1.
The Dow had a chance for its best year since 2003 but with Friday's losses will have to settle for its top point gain since 2006
Dow component Pfizer also slipped, as FDA hasn't completed a review of a more advanced form of the company's "Prevnar" vaccine for pneumonia and meningitis. A final decision had been expected Wednesday.
Time Warner Cable and News Corp. also continue their debate over carriage of News Corp.'s Fox-branded channels. If it isn't resolved, the Fox channels could disappear from Time Warner Cable systems. The dispute centers around News Corp. wanting $1 per subscriber in return for permission to carry those channels.
AIG legal counsel Anastasia Kelly has resigned for reasons related to pay limits imposed by pay czar Kenneth Feinberg. Kelly had told the company a few weeks ago that she was prepared to resign over the issue.