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Financial, Industrial Sectors Boost Stocks -- WSJ

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04/21/2017 | 08:49am CEST
By Akane Otani and Riva Gold 

Investors piled back into shares of financial and industrial companies, a popular postelection trade that had largely petered out in the past month.

U.S. stock indexes have wavered in April, as investors dialed back expectations for tax cuts and fiscal stimulus from the Trump administration that initially pushed up stocks and government-bond yields after the November election.

But stocks rose sharply Thursday, with gains accelerating late in the session after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration planned to release a tax plan "very soon."

The blue-chip index jumped 174.22 points, or 0.9%, to 20578.71, with shares of banks and manufacturers among the biggest gainers. The S&P 500 rose 17.67 points, or 0.8%, to 2355.84, and the Nasdaq Composite added 53.74 points, or 0.9%, to a fresh closing high of 5916.78.

"The Mnuchin comments are just the icing on the cake," said R.J. Grant, director of equity trading at KBW, who said solid earnings reports also supported stocks during the session Thursday.

American Express added $4.47, or 5.9%, to $80.02 after it posted a smaller decline in profit than expected, and Citizens Financial Group, which reported record first-quarter earnings before the opening bell, rose 1.05, or 3.1%, to 35.27.

Industrial stocks in the S&P 500 rose 1.1%, with CSX among the biggest gainers. Shares of the railroad operator gained 2.65, or 5.6%, to 49.58 after it beat Wall Street earnings forecasts on Wednesday.

Some traders caution that the stock market is vulnerable to a pullback. Disappointment on taxes, whether in the form of delays in legislation or smaller cuts than expected, could prompt a stock selloff, said Eric Aanes, founder and president of Titus Wealth Management.

"We're at the stage where we believe we could have heightened volatility, " said Mr. Aanes, who recently hedged clients' portfolios to protect against a pullback in U.S. stocks.

Financial stocks in the S&P 500 are down 3.7% over the past month, while industrial stocks have fallen 0.3% in the same period. Both posted double-digit gains from the election through March 20.

Government bonds ticked lower Thursday, with the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rising to 2.239% from 2.202% in the prior session. Yields rise as bond prices fall.

Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.2%, and France's CAC-40 index climbed 1.5%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1%, and Japan's Nikkei Stock Average ended flat as a late-session pickup in the yen offset data showing Japan's exports rose more than expected in March.

Write to Akane Otani at akane.otani@wsj.com and Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com

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