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Before The Bell - Stocks began the first trading session in April on the upside, with solid gains reported across most of Asia and the European bourses. The favorable momentum carried over to our shores, and the major indexes ended the day with strong advances. 

Friday’s very strong jobs report for March helped set the tone for the day. The U.S. added 916,000 new positions last month, coming in about 35% better than expectations, and unemployment fell by 20 basis points, to 6.0%. The leisure and hospitality segment was the biggest gainer, adding 280,000 jobs. This was the sector’s best showing in seven months, as business recovery accelerated thanks to wider distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. Notably, the weekly average for vaccinations in the U.S. recently rose above three million. Adding fuel to the fire, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) reported that its index for the service economy jumped to 63.7 last month, up from 55.3% in February. Moreover, the March reading was the highest on record since the ISM started its survey in 1997. (Readings above 50 indicate expanding activity, while those below 50 denote contraction.) On the other side of the ledger, the Commerce Department reported that orders for U.S. manufactured goods were down 0.8% in February, to $505.7 billion, marking the first decline in 10 months. However, the larger-than-anticipated dip was largely attributed to inclement weather and temporary supply-chain hiccups, so it failed to break the market’s momentum, with the Dow Jones Industrials and the S&P 500 both reaching new high-water marks.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrials ended the session up 373 points, or 1.1%, the broader S&P 500 gained 58 points (1.4%), while the tech-heavy NASDAQ fared the best of the lot, advancing 225 points, or 1.7%. Nearly all of the major market sectors were firmly in the green for the day, with the largest gains coming from consumer discretionary (up 2.3%), communication services (+2.3%), and technology stocks (+2.0%). Energy was the only group that lost ground, shedding 2.4%. A good part of that decline reflected a 4.4% drop in West Texas Intermediate futures, which fell 4.4% on the session due to expectations of supply increases.

As we look to the new day, stocks in Asian markets had a mixed session, but the European bourses are solidly in positive territory. Meanwhile, U.S. stock futures are suggesting a positive open for the NASDAQ, while the Dow and S&P appear set to start the day slightly to the down side.  – Mario Ferro

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.