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Political tumult drives gains, plunges

There were plenty of big moves on the stock market in 2013, and the causes of many of them could be traced back to Washington.

Trying to guess when the Federal Reserve would start winding down its $85 billion a month in bond purchases became the biggest parlor game of the year on Wall Street.

Here are some of the biggest gains and drops of the year in the Dow Jones industrial average, and what caused them.

The biggest gains

Oct. 10 – Up 323 points. Markets soar after Republican leaders and President Barack Obama seem willing to end a 10-day standoff over fiscal issues that threaten to leave the U.S. unable to pay its bills.

Jan. 2 – Up 308 points. Stocks start the year off with a bang. Investors are relieved after lawmakers hammer out a last-minute budget deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” of sharp tax increases and across-the-board cuts in spending.

The biggest drops

June 20 – Down 353 points. The Dow has its worst day of 2013 after the Federal Reserve says it might pare back its economic stimulus program later in the year.

April 15 – Down 265 points. A plunge in commodity prices spills over into the stock market. The price of crude oil sinks to a four-month low, pulling energy stocks lower. Mining companies decline after the price of gold has its biggest one-day fall since 1983.