S&P 500 Posts 2.1% Weekly Gain in Strong Start to Q2, Led by Materials, Financials, Consumer Discretionary


The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 2.1% this week in a positive start to April and Q2 as investors were encouraged by a better-than-expected increase in March employment figures and indications the US and China could reach a trade agreement within weeks.

The market benchmark ended the week at 2,892.74, up from the previous week’s closing level of 2,834.40. The week’s gain was part of a winning streak for the S&P 500 that reached seven sessions Friday.

The March employment data released Friday by the Labor Department showed nonfarm payrolls rose by a seasonally adjusted 196,000 in March, better than economists’ estimate for an increase of 175,000. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, stayed at 3.8%.

Investors’ worries were also eased by a suggestion President Donald Trump gave Thursday that a trade agreement between the US and China could be announced within weeks.

The materials sector logged the largest percentage increase of the week, up 4.3%, followed by a 3.3% increase in financials and a 3.2% rise in consumer-discretionary stocks.

Just two sectors fell this week, both of which are typically considered areas of relative safety among US stocks: consumer staples and utilities, which slipped 1% and 0.2%, respectively.

The materials sector’s gainers included LyondellBasell Industries (LYB), whose shares rose 8.3% this week as BofA Merrill Lynch upgraded its investment rating on the stock to buy from underperform.

In the financial sector, shares of Ameriprise Financial Services (AMP) jumped 7.7% this week as the asset-management company said it agreed to sell its Ameriprise Auto & Home business for $1.05 billion to a subsidiary of American Family Insurance Mutual Holding. The company said it expects about $950 million in net proceeds from the deal.

Among consumer-discretionary stocks, Wynn Resorts (WYNN) shares soared 18% this week as Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau reported March had its highest monthly revenue since December.

On the downside, the consumer-staples sector’s decliners included Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), whose shares tumbled 14% on the week as the company reported weaker-than-expected earnings and revenue for its fiscal Q2 and lowered its earnings guidance for the year.