France's position in the European Union looked a little more secure on Monday following the first round of voting in the French presidential election. A vote for the status quo lit a fire under European markets and led to Wall Street's best day in nearly two months.
The S&P 500 was up 1.08%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 1.06%, or 216 points, and the Nasdaq climbed 1.2%. The Nasdaq opened at a new record on Monday, while gains pulled the three indexes into the green for April. Stocks saw their largest gains since the beginning of March.
Centrist Emmanuel Macron won the first round of the country's presidential elections over far-right Marine Le Pen. Macron and Le Pen will proceed to a presidential runoff after winning 23.75% and 21.53% of the weekend vote, respectively. The run-off for the country's presidency will be held on May 7. Polls suggested Macron holds at least a 20-point lead over Le Pen heading into the second round.
Macron's first-round win was seen as a victory for the European Union with the candidate likely to keep France in the bloc. Anti-European Le Pen would likely negotiate an exit from the EU, similar to what the United Kingdom is currently undergoing.
European markets were also sharply higher on Macron's win. The CAC 40 in France surged 4.1%, putting stocks at a nine-year high, while Germany's DAX added 3.4%, and the FTSE 100 in London rose 2.1%. BNP Paribas (BNPQY) , France's biggest lender, rose more than 9% on French markets Monday, while Credit Agricole (CRARY) and Societe General (SCGLY) also posted healthy gains. U.S.-listed shares of Deutsche Bank (DB) rallied 11%. The U.S.-listed iShares MSCI France Index ETF (EWQ) roared more than 5% higher.
"Relief: That is the word that basically describes the sharp moves in the markets today," said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.com, in a note. "The threat that a Eurosceptic leader will preside over France has therefore diminished sharply. However, the prospects of an unlikely victory for Le Pen remains and that may dampen the enthusiasm expressed by investors today."
Consumer staples stocks were the best performers on Monday, followed by financial names. Big gainers included Anheuser-Busch (BUD) , Coca-Cola (KO) , Phillip Morris (PM) , PepsiCo (PEP) and Unilever (UL) . The Consumer Discretionary SPDR ETF (XLY) rose nearly 1%.
Halliburton (HAL) exceeded analysts' quarterly estimates on strength in its North American activity to start the year. The energy services company reported a loss of 4 cents a share over the quarter, far narrower than a loss of $2.81 a share a year earlier. Adjusted earnings of 4 cents a share came in a penny higher than expected. Revenue climbed 1.4% to $4.28 billion, largely in-line with estimates. Company President Jeff Miller said he is "excited by the activity I see in North America and confident in our ability to manage through any challenges in the international markets."
Toymaker Hasbro (HAS) climbed 5.9% following an improved first quarter. Net income of 54 cents a share grew from 38 cents a share in the year-ago quarter. Analysts anticipated earnings to hold flat at 38 cents a share. Revenue in the U.S., which accounts for more than half of the top-line, rose 2% to $451.6 million thanks to growth in gaming sales. Overall revenue of $849.7 million exceeded analysts' target of $818.3 million.
Kimberly-Clark (KMB) reported a rise in net income, though adjusted earnings and sales came in below Wall Street estimates. First-quarter net income rose to $1.57 a share from $1.50 a share in the same quarter a year earlier. Adjusted earnings of $1.53 a share missed consensus by a penny. Sales came in flat at $4.48 billion, falling short of a rise to $4.49 billion. Kimberly-Clark anticipates full-year sales growth of just 1% to 2%.
So far, one-fifth of S&P 500 companies have reported on their quarters. Of those, 77% have beat earnings estimates, above the average beat of 64%. Analysts anticipate blended earnings growth of just over 11%, according to Thomson Reuters.
Amazon (AMZN) added nearly 1% after Wedbush Securities issued a bullish note on the stock. Analyst Michael Pachter increased his price target to $1,250, the highest of any Wall Street analyst, arguing that the company will likely see "substantial earnings growth." In a note, Pachter said the company "appears intent upon growing annual profits (with some quarterly volatility), which we expect to continue as the company invests in growth." Pachter also said Amazon Web Services will likely drive the bulk of growth. The online retailer is set to report on its recent quarter on Thursday.
Immune Pharmaceuticals (IMNP) slumped 20% on Monday after announcing restructuring plans and receiving a warning from the Nasdaq that it was non-compliant with listing requirements after failing to file its 10-K for 2016 on time. Immune said on Monday that it plans to absorb its oncology unit into its Cytovia business, which could then be spun off into a separate company.
Groupon (GRPN) stock was downgraded to underweight from equal weight at Morgan Stanley on Monday. Its price target was also lowered to $3.50 a share from $3.90. Analysts noted the company is lacking advertising demand.
Whole Foods (WFM) added 2% on Monday afternoon on reports Albertsons had held talks concerning a possible bid. The Financial Times reported that the two have held preliminary talks, though no formal offers has been made.