U.S. stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) were in positive territory this morning despite a steeper-than-expected first-quarter contraction by the U.S. economy.

Gross domestic product (GDP) measures the total goods and services output by the United States and is utilized to sum up the income generated by production over a specific time period for the a particular country.  For the first quarter of 2009, this important economic indicator dropped at a 6.1% annual rate, stretching the nation’s contraction in production for three straight quarters, reports Reuters. This decline was well below economists’ expectations of -4.9%.

The good thing is that the GDP numbers indicate that there is hope in the future.  Of all the numbers that go into calculating GDP, consumer spending, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the U.S. economic activity, rose 2.2% and was boosted by a 9.4% jump in purchases of durable goods.

Despite failing some stress tests, banks have actually been upgraded by Fox-Pitt analysts, enabling the sector to advance.  Additionally, Citigroup (C) is pleading with the Treasury to allow them to pay employees bonuses.  The financial giant seeks to pay retention bonuses to infiltrate morale in a firm that has been hit hard by the financial crisis, states the Associated Press.  The Financial Select SPDR (XLF), jumped 3.5% in intraday trading, despite being down 15.9% for the year.

The global economic downturn has really taken its toll on the oil industry.  Europe’s largest oil company, Royal Dutch Shell, reported a 62% decline in first quarter profits and a 49% decline in sales.  To put it into perspective, the company states that it pumped 3.5% fewer barrels of oil per day as compared to the previous year.