Wall Street ended the week, and first quarter, with gains as stocks shrugged off worries over the Trump administration to continue their grind higher.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average began the week with another day of losses, extending its streak to an eighth day and the worst since 2011. However, the Dow and other benchmark indexes turned around to post gains for the whole week.
The worry had been that Donald Trump and House Republicans' failure to push health care reform through to a vote signaled trouble for the likelihood of other campaign promises, including tax cuts and infrastructure spending. That concern was mostly placed on the backburner this week with investors preferring to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.
"You can rationalize the lack of a sell-off by arguing that the health care debacle has no impact on tax reform," Vincent Deluard, vice president of global macro strategy at the BD Division of INTL FCStone Financial, told TheStreet. "It is difficult to predict U.S. legislation in general, and almost impossible in the age of Trump. The only forecast I would make is that the stock market has priced in a big tax deal for both corporations and individuals, and that it will be disappointed if it does not get it."
The GOP's failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, a major campaign commitment, had previously been viewed as a litmus test for Trump's ability to achieve major change in Washington. Trump had promised major tax reform and regulatory rollbacks, both which look like tougher sells after the clumsy handling of health care reform -- the bill appeared to be rushed through and was pushed toward a vote even without a healthy margin of support in Congress. The bill was pulled late Friday afternoon after two days of voting delays. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that he had not formulated a timeline for a fresh attempt at health care reform.
The Dow ended the week 0.32% higher, the S&P 500 climbed 0.80%, and the Nasdaq rose 1.4%. Benchmark indexes fared even better over the first quarter, benefiting from the height of the "Trump rally." The Nasdaq logged the best gains of the three major benchmark indexes with an increase of 10% over the first three months of the year. The S&P 500 closed up nearly 6% for the first quarter, while the Dow rose almost 5%. The Dow's gain is its sixth quarterly increase in a row, the longest stretch since the end of 2006.
The United Kingdom took the expected first step to formally remove itself from the European Union earlier this week, a relationship that has lasted more than four decades. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May activated Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty Wednesday morning by notifying European Council President Donald Tusk by way of letter. The notification kicks off two years of negotiating trade, immigration, and other economic deals between the U.K. and the EU.
The U.K. voted in favor of "Brexit" last summer in a shock win that rocked markets at the time. However, global markets mostly have readjusted to the new reality just as they did following Trump's surprise election win in November. Analysts note that the long lead time heading into Article 50 means that markets have mostly priced in the move by Wednesday.
The U.S. economy grew at a faster pace than anticipated in the fourth quarter, further proof that the president inherited a solid economic foundation from predecessor Barack Obama despite Trump's calls to the contrary. The economy grew at a pace of 2.1% from October to December, up from a previous estimate of 1.9%, according to the third and final estimate of fourth-quarter GDP. Analysts anticipated the measure to tick up to 2% growth over the period, the final full quarter under the Obama administration.
Consumer confidence surged in March, continuing upward trends seen in the past few months. Confidence rose to a reading of 125.6 in March, according to the Conference Board, the highest level since December 2000. The index sat at 116.1 in February. Analysts had anticipated a small dip in March after the index reached a post-recession high last month.
Crude oil closed with quarterly losses of 5.8%, even as the commodity settled Friday at its best level in more than three weeks. Oil had a positive week as a weekly reading on domestic inventories showed a smaller-than-expected rise and production disruptions in Libya increased hopes of a hit to global output.
It was a quiet week on the earnings calendar. BlackBerry narrowed its loss from a year earlier and posted above-consensus adjusted profit. The company anticipates adjusted earnings over fiscal 2018.
Lululemon Athletica (LULU) - Get Report issued a weak outlook for the first quarter. The athletic apparel brand anticipates first-quarter revenue no higher than $515 million and earnings between 25 cents to 27 cents a share. Analysts anticipated earnings of 39 cents a share on sales of $552 million. Fourth-quarter earnings also missed estimates.