Jim Zarroli

No one predicted what a tumultuous, stomach-churning year 2020 would be for the stock markets. And few foresaw how well it would end up.

Here are the highlights:

Stocks in meltdown

Between Feb. 12 and March 23, the Dow lost a stunning 37% of its value.

Economic benefits for victims of the pandemic will expire soon if Congress and the president don't act to extend or replace them.

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It took months, but late last night, Congress passed a spending package to help people and businesses struggling through the pandemic. It includes $900 billion in aid. And here's how Democratic Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey described it.

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When listeners in Fort Wayne, Indiana, tuned into Majic 95.1 in July, they heard something both unexpected and all-too-familiar. The station was playing Christmas music. In the heat of summer.

With the pandemic making life miserable for people, the station was looking for a way to appeal to listeners and boost its ratings, and Christmas songs can be a dependable way of doing so.

Updated at 10:33 a.m. ET

You probably think 2020 has turned out to be a pretty lousy year, what with the coronavirus pandemic, a global recession and unceasing partisan warfare in Washington.

Then again, you're not Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk.

Thanks to soaring stock prices at Tesla, the company Musk founded, the quirky South African-born entrepreneur has seen his personal wealth soar to unimaginable heights of $147 billion.

YouTube is filled with videos promising to teach you how to make big bucks trading stocks on your home computer. Matthew's videos tell you how to lose money.

A real estate agent and amateur investor, Matthew, who prefers his last name not be used because of how it might affect his career, made thousands of dollars trading stocks over the years, only to lose most of it day trading.

Now, in his YouTube videos, he cautions others about the perils of day trading at a time when stay-at-home measures have led millions to buy — and sell — stocks for the first time.

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

Not even the pandemic could keep the Dow from breaking a major milestone: the 30,000-point barrier.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average powered past 30,000 for the first time Tuesday after President Trump allowed the transition process to begin, even as he has yet to concede.

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President Trump's slash-and-burn rhetoric against China may have brought few lasting economic benefits so far, but it has succeeded in one fundamental way: No administration can now afford to play nice with the United States' biggest rival.

Trump made hostility toward China a centerpiece of his "America First" trade agenda, launching bitter attacks against Beijing's policies and setting off a trade war by slapping tariffs on two-thirds of Chinese imports.

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Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET

Euphoria broke out Monday on Wall Street after promising news of a vaccine trial provided a major dose of hope for the global economy.

The powerful rally was sparked after Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said the experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective.

Updated at 4:23 p.m. ET

Wall Street seemed to love the prospect of a "blue wave" just a few days ago. Now that Democrats appear less likely to get the landslide they hoped for, investors are happy about that as well.

Stock prices began climbing early in the week, when polls showed that Democrats could capture both the Senate and the White House, giving them complete control of Washington.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished 1.6% higher on Monday and then rose more than 2% before polls closed on Election Day.

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Updated at 4:11 p.m. ET

Stocks fell sharply on Wednesday as a spike in coronavirus cases in the United States and Europe is raising the prospect of further lockdowns that could hurt the global economy.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 943 points, a decline of 3.4%, and is in negative territory for the month. The S&P 500 fell 3.5%, its third consecutive decline, and is down over 8% from its record high in early September.

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Updated at 5 p.m. ET

Stocks on Monday posted their worst day since early September amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the United States and Europe and declining optimism about another U.S. pandemic relief bill.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day down 650 points, or 2.3%, posting its biggest decline since Sept. 3. The other major indexes were also down, though not as much.

Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET

The U.S. budget deficit soared to a record $3.1 trillion, following a massive surge in government spending aimed at containing the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

The deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 was more than triple that of fiscal 2019 and easily eclipsed the previous record of $1.4 trillion recorded in 2009.

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With an apartment on glitzy Park Avenue and a hefty portfolio of stocks, retired investment manager Morris Pearl seems comfortably ensconced in the 1%.

And one thing helps him stay there: The taxes he pays are lower than those of the average elementary school teacher.

"I, for instance, have not worked since 2014," says Pearl, who was a managing director at BlackRock, one of the world's largest investment firms. He now earns a living from his investments. "I'm doing fairly well ... my tax rate is in the teens."

Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET

Stocks finished sharply higher after President Trump said he's open to stand-alone bills to aid airlines and small businesses, a reversal from statements he made earlier.

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Updated at 4:37 p.m. ET

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the pace of jobs growth is rising faster than many people expected, but it may take years before the economy has fully recovered.

On election night 2016, Gretchen Sisson was so sure Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump that she and her husband invited 80 people to their San Francisco home for a party. They even had a giant sheet cake made that celebrated suffragists and the Equal Rights Amendment. On the side was written, "Madam President."

That's not how it turned out. Trump won in a stunning outcome, and no one could bear to eat. Afterward, Sisson and her family ended up eating the cake themselves for weeks. It was, she says now, a lesson in hubris.

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When legendary investor Jack Bogle created the index fund in 1976, he saw it as a way to help ordinary Americans share in the riches of the entire U.S. stock market.

This year, index fund investors are making money all right. But it's come with some risks: Much of the gains are due to half a dozen ultra-hot technology stocks.

President Trump loves talking about the booming stock market. It's not so clear Wall Street loves him back.

For the first time in a decade, deep-pocketed donors from the halls of finance are giving more money to Democrats than Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks money in politics.

Stuck at home this spring, University of Nebraska student Alexander Kearns spent his empty hours buying and selling stocks online, learning as much as he could about investing.

"He sounded like a kid that was really, really excited to be studying something that he found interesting," says Bill Brewster, his cousin by marriage.

What no one knew was that Kearns had been trading options on a popular app called Robinhood, and at some point appears to have mistakenly concluded he had lost more than $730,000.

Already a Wall Street superstar, Tesla turned a profit for the fourth straight quarter, an important milestone that will make it eligible to join the S&P 500 stock index for the first time.

The economy is tanking across the country, with layoffs and bankruptcies as far as the eye can see. But the richest sliver of the country continues to do quite well, thank you.

The latest evidence came Wednesday morning as Goldman Sachs, the bluest of blue-chip banks, said it's raking in money on Wall Street.

While other banks are warning about rising loan losses during the recession, Goldman, which tends to serve a higher-end clientele, is sounding a pretty optimistic note.

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