As of late morning, that’s what U-S stocks seem ready to do as the first quarter of 2013 ends today. The Dow, up 10.8%, is on track for its best first quarter performance in 15 years, when it was up 11.3%. If you like historical precedents, you may love this one: since 1950, there have been 12 other times when the Dow finished the first quarter with a gain of 8 percent or more, and in each of those instances the index finished the year with gains. Streaks are made to be broken, of course; just ask the Miami Heat today. But a positive start to the year for stocks does augur well for the remainder of 2013.
Of all the major indexes, the Dow Transports have done the best this quarter, up 16.7 percent despite some recent pullbacks. That performance cheers the Dow theorists who believe that the Dow 30 industrials need a confirming move up from the transports to validate their gains.
So far this year, the broader S&P 500 is up 9.6 percent. Early today it crossed its all-time closing high of 1565. We’ll see whether it can hold the gains and end the quarter with a new record close.
Among the S&P sectors, the best performers have been healthcare (up 14.1%), consumer staples (up 13.2%) and consumer discretionary (up 11.4%). Even the sector “losers” had gains this quarter. Materials (up 3.6%), infotech (up 4%) and telecom services (up 7.8%) brought up the rear of the 10 sectors S&P follows.
The relatively torpid performance of infotech partly explains why the NASDAQ Composite (up 7.9%) and NASDAQ 100 (up 5.6%) trailed both the S&P 500 and the Dow. Apple’s ongoing struggles weighed on those indexes. Apple lost nearly 18% of its value this quarter, and because of its still-massive market cap, it’s the tail that wags NASDAQ.
Tonight on Nightly Business Report, we’ll recap this first quarter for the record books and look ahead to the second quarter and the rest of the year in U-S stock, foreign equities, emerging markets and fixed-income. As always, the goal will be to provide insights and information to help you make a buck or two. Susie and I hope you will join us.