Stocks Fight Off Washington D.C.

Despite Washington D.C. attracting attention to itself like a ring girl at MGM Grand, stocks came out of the corner swinging in January.boxing

With spending cuts in the fiscal cliff delayed, along with the debt ceiling, stocks logged a monthly performance worthy of record books. In January, the Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 5.8 percent to close at 13,860, while the S&P 500 gained 5.0 percent to finish just shy of 1,500. The Nasdaq climbed 4.1 percent higher.

It was the best January for the Dow since 1994, and the best for the S&P 500 since 1997. Both indices posted their best month since October 2011. According to TrimTabs Investment Research, nearly $80 billion flowed into stock mutual funds and exchange traded funds in January, the best monthly haul in at least a decade.

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In terms of sectors, energy and healthcare led the gains, but technology names attracted the most attention on an individual stock basis. Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), was the best performer in the S&P 500 for January, surging 78 percent. The online media company managed to dodge a net loss and surprised Wall Street with a fourth quarter profit. Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) were also among the top performers, thanks to buyout rumors.

To the downside, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was the worst performer in the S&P 500. The tech giant logged a 14.4 percent drop and lost its title as the world’s most valuable publicly traded company. Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) was on its way to a jaw-dropping January, but shares declined 27 percent in the final trading days of the month.

Is the tone set for the rest of the year…