A bevy of better-than-expected first quarter results helped U.S. equities and stock exchange traded funds rally Thursday.
U.S. equities gained momentum on a number of strong first quarter earnings announcements. For instance, American Express (NYSE: AXP) revealed a smaller decline in profits than expected, indicating the credit card company was recovering from the loss of key partnerships last year.
Citizens Financial Group (NYSE: CFG) reported record first-quarter net income before the opening bell.
CSX Corp (NYSE: CSX) also led industrial stock gains after beating Wall Street forecasts on earnings.
“As we see a steady stream of earnings, on balance the season has been better and that’s helping the market today,” Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, told Reuters.
As U.S. markets trade near record levels and observers grow concerned over President Donald Trump’s ability to make good on his pro-growth policies, investors are looking to first-quarter earnings to justify the high valuations.
Of the 57 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings, about 75% have exceeded expectations. S&P 500 companies are anticipated to experience a 10.8% rise in profits over the first quarter, the best results since 2011.
“So far, the corporate side looks pretty good,” Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at the Schwab Center for Financial Research, told the Wall Street Journal.
Nevertheless, a number of global risks could shake market momentum. For example, increased tensions between North Korea and the U.S. and the upcoming French presidential elections are putting pressure on the short-term outlook.
Philippe Waechter, economist at Natixis Asset Management, points out that investors predict independent centrist Emmanuel Macron to win in the upcoming French presidential elections. If a euroskeptic candidate were ultimately elected, though, “it would be a shock for France, it would be a shock for the eurozone, and that’s what worries us,” Waechter said.
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