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The new year kicked off on a bearish note for the S&P 500 futures index, as traders and investors engaged in a rotation from market leaders to laggards. 

The tone for the day was set early in premarket trading when December’s closing level was breached, leading to a sustained decline. The downturn was marked by a decisive cut through the 4800 handle before the regular session’s open.

Despite this initial slide, the index found some footing by the open. A brief bullish effort pushed the index close to the 4800 level during the lunch hour, suggesting a potential stabilizing of the market. However, this respite was short-lived. Sellers re-emerged with vigor, driving the index downwards to establish a new intraday low of 4765.50.

The session’s final moments saw a renewed push from the bulls, who managed to recoup nearly 18 handles before the closing bell, tempering the day’s losses.

Ultimately, the index futures closed the day down by 32.75 handles, marking a bearish start to the year.

In the rankings of the top components of the index, UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) claimed the spot as the day’s biggest gainer. The healthcare conglomerate achieved a notable increase of $12.87 or 2.44%, closing at $539.34.

 This performance stood in contrast to the cash index’s overall loss of 0.56%.

Conversely, Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was the session’s most significant loser among the top S&P 500 components. Following a downgrade from Barclay’s, due to soft sales figures in China and other developed markets, investors swiftly moved away from the tech giant, leading to a substantial drop of $6.89 or 3.58%, with the stock closing at $185.64.