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Stocks rally more than 1%, paring losses for the first quarter

U.S. stocks rallied on Thursday, the last trading day of the month and the quarter, as the technology sector curbed steep declines seen in recent sessions.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 254.69 points to close at 24,103.11, with Intel rising 5 percent. The S&P 500 gained 1.4 percent to 2,640.87, with tech rising 2.2 percent. The Nasdaq composite advanced 1.6 percent 7,063.44.

Transports also climbed 2 percent, but were still deep in correction territory.

Shares of Facebook rose 4.4 percent, while Apple, Netflix and Alphabet also closed higher. Microsoft rose 2.1 percent after the company announced a major reorganization.

However, the S&P 500 technology sector ended the month 4 percent lower following a slew of negative news for some of the key companies in the space. Last week, reports emerged alleging that Cambridge Analytica, an analytics company, had gathered data from 50 million Facebook profiles without users’ permission.

While Facebook has since come out to apologize and try to rectify the matter, concerns remain over data use.

In the latest surrounding the debacle, Facebook unveiled new tools on Wednesday designed to make it easier for users to look at and access the data that the social media giant has on each user. The move is also an effort to regain trust with Facebook members, following the data scandal. For the month, Facebook shares dropped 10.4 percent.

A recent decline in Amazon shares also dampened sentiment in the tech space. Amazon’s shares tumbled Wednesday on news that President Donald Trump reportedly wanted to take on the e-commerce giant, in regards to its tax treatment.

Trump then tweeted on Thursday morning: “Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!”

Amazon’s stock slumped on the back of the tweet before closed 1.1 percent higher.

“The hard knocks keep coming for the S&P 500 Technology sector,” said Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research, in a note. “After leading the stock market for most of 2017, the S&P 500 Tech sector has underperformed the broad index and all of the other 10 sectors in recent weeks.”

But Yardeni says investors should not give up entirely on the sector. “When today’s dour headlines fade away, we believe the amazing innovations that fostered last year’s optimism about the Tech sector will recapture investors’ imaginations.”

Thursday also marked the last trading day for March and the first quarter of 2018. U.S. markets will be closed on Friday due to the Good Friday holiday.

Equities have had a volatile quarter to start off 2018. The major averages reached record highs in January before falling into correction. Concerns that rising inflation would lead to tighter monetary policy sent stocks lower in February before they recovered slightly.

In March, however, worries that the U.S. could spark a trade war with China along with downside pressure in tech kept Wall Street on its toes.

The Dow and S&P 500 fell 2.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively, for the quarter. They also snapped nine-quarter winning streaks. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, rose 2.3 percent in the first quarter.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at Globalt. “We had fear of missing out in January and now we have fear of getting caught on the wrong side of the market.”

Source: CNBC

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