2019 has a chance at being a historic year for the stock market

Key Points
  • If the year ended right now, it would be the best annual gain for the stock market in six years. But if the rally keeps going just another couple percentage points, there's a good chance at the best annual return in 22 years.
  • The S&P 500 is up more than 28% this year, about 1 percentage point away from 2013's pace when the market gained 29.6%.
  • If it exceeds that, it would be the best year since 1997 when the benchmark advanced 31%.
  • The S&P 500 also crossed 3,200 for the first time ever on Thursday, hitting its seventh round-number milestone of the year.
S&P 500's record-breaking rally just getting started, technician says

The S&P 500 just crossed 3,200 for the first time ever, hitting its seventh round-number milestone of 2019, a year that has a good chance at being one for the record books.

With less than two weeks left in 2019, the S&P 500 is up more than 28%, about 1 percentage point away from 2013's gain of 29.6%.

If it exceeds that, it would then be the best year in 22 years, when the benchmark jumped 31% in 1997.

The S&P 500 has only posted only one down week over the past 11 as the easing trade tensions between the U.S. and China led to a rush into equities. The two countries reached a "phase one" agreement that includes some rollback of tariffs and more agriculture buying from China. Investors also shrugged off the impeachment of President Donald Trump by the House as chances are slim that he will be removed from office.

Based on the historic performance going back to 1950, the majority of December's gains in the S&P 500 have tended to happen toward the end of the month, according to Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial. So if history is any guide, the market could have a shot at topping 1997's record.

"We still have time to believe in Santa," said Detrick. "December has been widely viewed as a strong month for stocks, with this year following suit so far."

Winners and losers in banking sector going into 2020

Optimism is rising that the global economy will snap out of its trade-induced slowdown and that sluggish earnings growth will start improving. Wall Street analysts are seeing more room for stocks to run next year but at a much slower pace. The average 2020 year-end target of 3,330 represents a gain of about 4% from here, according to the CNBC Market Strategist Survey.

"The low interest rate environment continues to argue for favoring stocks over bonds," Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. equity strategy at Bank of America, said in a recent note. "Corporates will be in the driver's seat, and we think execution and delivering on earnings will be key to generating returns in 2020."