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Wall Street Overview

Stocks ended on a high note Monday following the strongest reading of manufacturing output in China in at least eight months and further indications of progress in the U.S.-China trade talks.

China's manufacturing activity in March rose above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction for the first time in four months, according to the private Caixin PMI reading, suggesting Beijing's planned $300 billion in spending and tax cuts was starting to arrest output declines linked to the months-long trade war with the U.S.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, said it will extend a suspension of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. autos, and include the opioid fentanyl in a list of controlled substances, Bloomberg reported. Vice Premier Liu He, China's trade envoy, left for the U.S. on Monday. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer held talks with Chinese officials last week in Beijing.

U.S. retail sales unexpectedly declined in February, falling by 0.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Census Bureau said. This compares with a revised 0.7% increase the prior month, and economists had projected a gain of 0.3% during February based on a survey by the data provider FactSet.

The Institute of Supply Management said its latest survey of manufacturing-industry purchasers produced an index reading of 55.3, up from 54.2 in February, the lowest reading in two years. Economists had projected a March reading of 54.5.

David Madden, a market analyst at CMC Markets U.K., said "the major indices have recouped most of the ground that was lost on the back of the selloff in mid- to late March. Should the bullish move continue, the indices might retest the 2019 highs."

"The U.S. produced mixed economic announcements (Monday)," Madden said. "The retail sales report showed a 0.2% decline in February, while economists were expecting an increase of 0.2%. The ISM manufacturing report ticked up to 55.3, from 54.2. It is encouraging to see that manufacturing activity ticked up, but keep in mind the previous report was the lowest reading late 2016, so in the grand scheme of things, the sector is still fragile."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its best day since Feb. 15, surging 329 points, or 1.27%, to 26,258; the S&P 500 rose 1.16% and the Nasdaq climbed 1.29%. Stocks finished the first quarter of 2019 higher, with the S&P 500 posting its best quarter since 2009.

TheStreet Recommends

Shares of Lyft  (LYFT) - Get Lyft Inc Class A Report  fell sharply on the ride-sharing company's second day of trading on the Nasdaq after its massive initial public offering last week that dominated Wall Street. Lyft shares had climbed as much as 23% at one point Friday after opening at $87.24 a share. Shares sank 11.9% to $69.01, below the offer price of $72. 

"Lyft's stock will continue to be volatile, but I don't see a reason for this volatility to affect the general market," said Jay Ritter, a professor at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business. "It will affect the price of Uber's IPO, however."

Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report shares were up slightly to $191.24 following a report that suggested the tech giant has slashed sale prices for its iPhone and Mac products in China. CNBC reported that the cuts, which it found through Apple's website, suggest price declines of around 6%, and include AirPods, iPads, iPhones and Macs sold online in the world's second largest economy.

Apple is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells AAPL? Learn more now. (AMZN) - Get, Inc. Report rose after analysts at Oppenheimer raised their price target on the online retailing giant. Oppenheimer raised its price target to $2,085 from $1,975 a share and maintained its outperform rating on the stock, citing the company's ability to leverage its artificial intelligence capabilities for the Amazon Web Services business. Shares closed up 1.88% at  $1,814.19

Amazon is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells the stock? Learn more now.

Kellogg (K) - Get Kellogg Company (K) Report said it reached an agreement to sell a portion of its Kellogg's North America snacking business to the Ferrero Group for $1.3 billion. The brands included in the deal include Keebler, Mother's, Famous Amos, Murray's and Murray's Sugar Free, and the cookies made for Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. Shares closed down 2.37% at $56.02.

Merck  (MRK) - Get Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK) Reportwon approval for the sale of its blockbuster lung cancer treatment in China. Merck's anti-PD-1 therapy, better known by its brand name Keytruda, was Merck's top-selling product last year. Shares closed up 0.16% at $83.30.

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