Published: Sun, April 02, 2017
Markets | By Terence Owen

Stocks end 1Q with solid gains after day of listless trading

USA stocks added to a sixth straight quarterly gain, the dollar advanced and Treasuries fell as central bank officials in Europe and the US signaled divergent policy paths. On the economic front, personal income for February matched estimates, at 0.4% growth, while consumer spending just missed predictions, climbing 0.1%. Financial stocks were down the most, while utilities posted the biggest gains.

The Nasdaq Composite added 0.02 percent to 5,915.42. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 3 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,385.

FILE - This Oct. 18, 2016 file photo shows the New York Stock Exchange building in New York.

"So far the market has navigated a somewhat uncertain terrain with grace", said Adam Sarhan, chief executive officer at 50 Park Investments.

Investors are now looking to the upcoming quarterly earnings season to justify pricy valuations. Since the start of the year, the S&P 500 is up 5.7 per cent, its best quarterly performance since 2015. Gross domestic product increased at a 2.1 percent annualized rate instead of the previously-reported 1.9 percent pace. Meanwhile, an inflation gauge closely watched by the Federal Reserve increased 2.1 percent in February compared with a year ago, a five-year high.

-Yields on 10-year Treasuries climbed four basis points to 2.42 percent.

Auto dealership companies were among the decliners Friday.

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The energy sector rose for a third straight day, supported by stronger oil prices and an 7.6-percent gain for ConocoPhillips, the biggest percentage riser on the S&P 500 after its agreement to sell oil and gas assets. Copper slipped 2 cents to $2.65 per pound.

BlackBerry shares jumped 15%, after it reported better than expected results. The stock added $5.22 to $37.96. The stock climbed $5.45 to $17.40.

DOUBLE DEAL: FMC has agreed to buy part of DuPont's crop protection business, while DuPont buys FMC's health and nutrition unit. Antitrust regulators in Europe wanted DuPont to make the sale as part of its combination with competitor Dow Chemical. FMC jumped $8.09, or 13.2 per cent, to $69.59.

Also weighing on the S&P 500 and Dow, Exxon Mobil fell 1.92 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.4 per cent. Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.8% as airline stocks retreated, while South Korea's Kospi gave back 0.2% on disappointing factory data.

USA markets ended higher in Thursday's session, with financials leading the way, as investors digested economic figures & facts and eyed oil prices. The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 2.41 percent from 2.42 percent late Thursday.

By the close, May-dated crude was up 25 cents, or 0.5%, $50.60 per barrel, and 5.4% higher on the week.

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