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Stocks jump, helped by encouraging economic data

Dow Jones Average Rises On Positive Economic Reports From China
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Stocks closed solidly higher on Wall Street on Monday after a batch of encouraging global economic data kept investors in a buying mood.

Financial and technology companies powered much of the rally, which extended the market’s gains from last week. On Friday, the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 closed out its best quarter in nearly a decade.

In another hopeful sign, long-term bond yields rose above their recent lows, following a sharp drop last month that flashed a possible recession warning and rattled Wall Street.

Those concerns were allayed Monday as new economic data suggested a brighter outlook for the U.S. economy. A gauge of U.S. manufacturing notched a big March gain, and a separate report showed construction spending climbed in February. Meanwhile, an economic report out of China showed growth in exports, employment and orders.

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Although the more encouraging data gave stocks a boost, the market could face some bumps ahead, said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab.

“The hurdle in the near term is still going to be earnings,” she said.

The S&P 500 climbed 32.79 points, or 1.2%, to 2,867.19 on Monday, notching a three-day winning streak.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 329.74 points, or 1.3%, to 26,258.42. The Nasdaq composite jumped 99.59 points, or 1.3%, to 7,828.91. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks advanced 16.33 points, for a 1.1% gain, to 1,556.06.

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Monday’s gains followed a strong finish to the first quarter for U.S. stocks. The S&P 500 index is now up 14.4% this year, a big turnaround after the index skidded 14% in the final quarter of 2018.

Financial and technology companies powered Monday’s rally. Investors tend to favor those sectors when they’re confident the economy will keep growing. Bank of America climbed 3.4% on Monday, and Intel rose 1.5%.

Makers of consumer products and utility firms, which are considered safe-play investments, lagged behind the overall market. Clorox fell 1.2%. NRG Energy slid 1.7%.

Bond yields continued rising — another sign that investors are confident in the economy’s growth. That came as a welcome relief after bond yields dropped sharply to their lowest levels in more than a year.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped to 2.50% from Friday’s 2.41%. It also rose back above the yield on the three-month Treasury bill.

That reverses an “inversion” in bond yields that alarmed investors last month — such an inversion, when it persists over time, has preceded recessions in the past.

On March 22, key bond yields fell to their lowest levels in more than a year, and they continued to slide much of last week after the Federal Reserve said it was seeing slower growth in the economy and no longer expected to raise interest rates this year.

“You look to the bond market to be a bit more skeptical and a bit ahead of the equity market on where things are going,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments. “So, the movement upward in the 10-year [yield] is a bounce that says: OK, we realize there are these issues of a slowdown, but it’s not a disaster.”

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The rise in bond yields helped boost bank stocks. Higher bond yields mean banks can benefit from higher interest rates on loans. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Capital One Financial shares each climbed 3.4%.

Wynn Resorts jumped 8.4%, the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, as traders welcomed a solid revenue report from the casino operator’s businesses in Macau and upbeat economic data from China.

Lyft plunged 11.9% on its second full day of trading, falling below its initial public offering price of $72 a share. The ride-hailing company has consistently lost money but has posted supercharged growth.

Its IPO last week was seen as a harbinger for other hotly anticipated offerings in fast-growing privately held companies such as Uber, Pinterest and Slack.

Kellogg slid 2.4% on news that the packaged foods company is selling its Keebler cookie brand and other sweet snacks businesses to Ferrero — an Italian confectionary company best known for making Nutella — for $1.3 billion.

ComScore plunged 29.7% after the media analytics firm lost two top executives under a leadership shakeup.

Investors will be focusing more on corporate earnings this month: The next big wave of company results kick into gear next week.

Wall Street expects a contraction in earnings during the first quarter, followed by slow growth for the remainder of 2019. Any company commentary about their prospects for the next few quarters will be important in giving analysts and investors a better picture of the economy.

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Traders also have their eye on the U.S.-China trade talks, which are due to resume this week. Officials from the world’s two biggest economies are aiming to put to rest a dispute over technology and other issues.

Energy futures closed higher. Benchmark U.S. crude climbed 2.4% to settle at $61.59 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 2.1% to $69.01 a barrel.

Wholesale gasoline rose 0.9% to $1.90 a gallon. Heating oil ticked up 0.8% to $1.99 a gallon. Natural gas rose 1.7% to $2.71 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell 0.3% to $1,294.20 an ounce. Silver slipped 0.1% to $15.10 an ounce. Copper fell 0.4% to $2.92 a pound.

The dollar rose to 111.37 yen from 110.80 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1211 from $1.1214.


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