By Ken Sweet The Associated Press The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades. The Standard & Poor's 500 index notched its best year since 1997; the Dow Jones industrial average rose the most since 1995. The early signs for the stock market in 2014 also are encouraging. "I expect a lot of good things for the new year," said Karyn Cavanaugh , market strategist with ING U.S. Investment Management . "The economy is getting better, and corporate earnings are improving. That's going to drive the market higher." Trading was light on the last day of the year. The S&P 500 rose 7.29 points to 1,848.36. The index ended 2013 up 29.6 percent. With dividends included, the total return was 31.9 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 72.37 points to 16,576.66. The blue chips ended the year up 26.5 percent. The Nasdaq composite rose 22.39 points to 4,176.59. The Nasdaq did far better than the Dow and S&P, rising 38.3 percent for 2013. All 10 sectors of the S&P 500 ended the year higher, but the year's biggest gainers were companies most exposed to the U.S. economic recovery. Consumer discretionary stocks in the S&P 500 rose 40 percent this year. Close behind were industrial stocks with a gain of 37 percent. The rally in 2013 took many investors by surprise. Any number of things could have derailed the uptick - the U.S. government shutdown, the possibility of a default, the threat of military action in Syria , budget cuts and new worries about European government debt. Instead, the market just kept on going. Bond investors lost money this year, according to Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, a broad measure of the debt market. The index fell 3 percent this year, the first decline since 1999. Gold investors got slammed. Gold lost 28 percent of its value in 2013, its worst year since 1981 . U.S. financial markets will be closed today.
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