The Labor Department reported that the nation had added 215,000 new jobs last month. That was in line with expectations of 211,000 new positions. And results for January and February were revised only slightly. The January payroll number was reduced from 172,000 to 168,000 and the February payroll gain went from 242,000 to 245,000. Thus, there was nothing in the raw numbers to excite or annoy investors. The labor report, along with dovish remarks from Fed Chair Janet Yellen, sent stocks higher. For the week, the Dow Industrials and the S&P 500 moved ahead by 1.6% and 1.8%, respectively and the NASDAQ soared nearly 3%. The uptick has now erased much of the early quarter declines pushing the major averages in positive territory for the year.
Crude oil prices took a hit late in the week as OPEC said it has no plans to cut production and the glut remains. Hence, energy stocks were the sole loser over the past five trading sessions giving up 1.2% on average. For the quarter, West Texas oil is now only about 8% below where it started the year, closing on Friday at $36.79/bbl. Natural gas, however, is still at record lows and 19% negative for the year. Technology stocks were the star of the week moving ahead 2.7% followed by consumer goods and services. Healthcare names made a comeback as well. Gold was all but unchanged for the week, but has skyrocketed over the past three months by over 15%, the best quarterly showing since 2007.
Technically, the market has demonstrated some strength lately. The S&P 500 Index is now just under the 2,060 level and the 2,100 area will likely be the next resistance target for the bulls. The Dow is just near the 17,800 mark, and it would likely be reassuring to investors to see it tick higher to the 18,000 level. Perhaps, a good first quarter earnings season will provide some of the catalyst needed for such a move. In all, investors are hanging in there nicely, having spent the latter half of the first quarter undoing the damage inflicted in the first six weeks. Looking ahead, and assuming no glitches on the economic, monetary, earnings or security fronts, the equity market’s recent recovery should be largely sustained.
Here is the answer to last week’s trivia question: The longest-sitting director for an S&P 500 listed company is? Warrant Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway); Sumner Redstone (CBS and Viacom); Charles Munger (Berkshire Hathaway); Leonard Alan Lauder (Estee Lauder Cos.). Answer: Leonard Alan Lauder who has served on the Board of Directors of Estee Lauder for 57 years.
Today’s Trivia Question: Which major U.S. rail recently moved its listing from the New York Stock Exchange to the NASDAQ? Norfolk Southern, CSX, Kansas City Southern or Union Pacific.