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US STOCKS-Wall St gains, backed by stronger U.S. economy
March 30, 2017 / 7:01 PM / 8 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St gains, backed by stronger U.S. economy

* U.S. GDP revised higher, boosted by consumer spending

* Financials lead market higher, defensive utilities drop

* Lululemon slumps after weak first-quarter outlook

* Indexes up: Dow 0.36 pct, S&P 0.34 pct, Nasdaq 0.3 pct (Updates to late afternoon)

By Lewis Krauskopf

March 30 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks gained on Thursday, led by financial shares, after data showed U.S. economic growth was stronger than previously reported last quarter, helped by robust consumer spending.

The energy sector rose for a third straight day, supported by stronger oil prices and an 7.6-percent gain for ConocoPhillips, the biggest percentage riser on the S&P 500 after its agreement to sell oil and gas assets.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was set to rise for a fifth session in a row.

U.S. economic growth slowed less than previously reported in the fourth quarter as robust consumer spending provided a boost, the Commerce Department said. Gross domestic product increased at a 2.1 percent annualized rate instead of the previously-reported 1.9 percent pace.

A record-setting rally for stocks in the wake of President Donald Trump’s November election stalled this month, with some investors pointing to risks to Trump’s agenda, including tax reform, after his fellow Republicans failed to pass a healthcare bill.

The GDP report is “basically an affirmation that, hey, at the end of the day, Washington will do and say whatever they are going to do, but the economy is marching forward,” said Karyn Cavanaugh, senior market strategist at Voya Investment Management in New York.

“It’s not just the U.S. economy, but we do see definitely improvement throughout the world,” Cavanaugh said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 73.79 points, or 0.36 percent, to 20,733.11, the S&P 500 gained 8.05 points, or 0.34 percent, to 2,369.18 and the Nasdaq Composite added 17.43 points, or 0.3 percent, to 5,914.98.

Financial shares surged 1.5 percent, with Bank of America and JPMorgan propping up the S&P 500.

The defensive utilities sector was the worst-performing group, falling 0.8 percent.

Investors are also turning their attention to the impending first-quarter earnings season to support lofty valuations for stocks. The S&P 500 is trading at about 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months against its long-term average of 15 times.

First-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to rise 10.1 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In corporate news, Lululemon Athletica shares plunged 23 percent after the Canadian yoga and leisure apparel retailer said first-quarter comparable sales were expected to fall.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.55-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.41-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 20 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 87 new highs and 17 new lows. (Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Nick Zieminski)

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