US STOCKS-Wall St lower but finishes year with solid gains
* VIX climbs for fourth straight session
* Crude oil weakens again
* Indexes off: Dow 0.89 pct, S&P 1.03 pct, Nasdaq 0.87 pct (Updates to close)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday as crude oil prices continued their descent, but the S&P closed out a third straight year of double-digit gains.
For the year, the Dow ended up 7.5 percent, notching its sixth straight annual gain, and the Nasdaq rose 13.4 percent. The best-performing S&P component in 2014 was Southwest Airlines Co up 124.6 percent, while Transocean Ltd, down 62.9 percent, was the worst.
Equities lost steam heading into the New Year after rallying nearly 6 percent over eight sessions, sparked by the U.S. Federal Reserve's commitment to be "patient" about raising interest rates and positive economic data.
Still, the S&P 500 has risen in seven of the past ten sessions, hitting a series of intraday and closing records, and finished the year up 11.4 percent. The stock market will be closed Thursday.
"The fact of the matter is markets put in a solid year in spite of significant headwinds that could have easily derailed a multi-year bull market," said Peter Kenny, chief market strategist at Clearpool Group in New York. Continuación...