The major market indexes were hoping to heat things up on this first day of the second quarter, and looking to build upon an impressive first three months of 2012. "It didn't drive much," noted Senior Equity Analyst Joe Bell, "but today's key driver was clearly the ISM manufacturing report."
Click through to see what else was on our radar today:
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA – 13,264.49) reached as high as 13,297.11 today -- a more than four-year best -- and ended the session up 52.5 points, or 0.4%, as all but four of its 30 components finished higher. Alcoa (AA) led the winning blue chips with a 1.5% jump, while Home Depot (HD) paced the losing issues with a 0.6% drop.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX – 1,418.90) settled the session with a 10.4-point, or 0.7%, upswing. In the last hour of trading, the SPX touched 1,422.38 -- its highest price since May 2008. Lastly, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP – 3,119.70) turned in the best performance of its fellow benchmarks, jumping 28.1 points, or 0.9%.
Although there was some early morning concern about the euro zone's poorly received PMI reading, solid U.S. manufacturing data sparked a rally on Wall Street. "The reading was slightly better than expected and showed continued economic growth," explained Bell. "If you look at the intraday price action, the SPX was trading just above 1,400 ahead of the report, and instantly popped after the number. The market's momentum slowly picked up after that, rallied steadily for a couple hours and then went sideways after noon."
Today's highlight: "That the session is over," quipped Bell. "We are now one day closer to jobs numbers on Friday, Easter on Sunday, and earnings season on Monday. From that perspective, it was a great day."
The ISM manufacturing index improved to 53.4 in March, up from February's reading of 52.4. The report was better than forecast, as analysts were calling for a smaller increase to 53.0. According to ISM data, March was the 32nd consecutive month of expansion in the U.S. manufacturing sector.
Turning to equities in focus...
And, in case you missed it, Equities Analyst Bryan Sapp explained why this shortened trading week shouldn't be taken too lightly. Click here to read Bryan's take.
For today's activity in commodities, options, and more, head to page 2.
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