End of First Quarter Was Strong For U.S. Equities

Yesterday marked the end of the first quarter with impressive quarterly gains. The Dow and S&P 500 had their best quarter since 1998 while the Nasdaq posted its best quarter since 1991.

For the quarter, the Dow was up 8.1%, S&P up 12%, and the Nasdaq up 19%.

Meanwhile, treasuries recorded their worst quarterly drop since the end of 2010.

At the beginning of the first quarter, equities were in oversold territory due to heavy 4th quarter selling from the European debt crisis and default worries. Financials took some of the biggest losses in the 4th quarter but they have marked a strong come back by posting some of the best gains as a sector during 1st quarter of 2012.

Next week is a shortened trading week due to Good Friday but the week will still contain some important data to help gauge the overall health of the U.S. economy. The biggest piece of data will be released on Friday with non-farm payrolls report from the Labor Department. Economists expect between 215,000 and 225,000 jobs in March, after gaining 227,000 jobs last month. Equity markets won’t be open on Friday to react to the non-farm payrolll report although bond markets will be open briefly.

Monday- ISM manufacturing numbers will be released for March.

Tuesday- February factory orders, Fed minutes, and U.S. car sales will be released. Expectations are high for car sales.

Wednesday- ISM will release service figures, ADP will post their employment report for March.

Thursday- Weekly jobless claims

Friday- Non-farm payroll – jobs report

Earnings season begins with Alcoa on April 10th.

* Update/Correction- At the Friday meeting in Copenhagen, EU finance ministers finally agreed to a 700 euro billion firewall rescue plan instead of a 800 billion rescue plan as was initially expected and reported.





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