The first quarter is officially over and in the record books. After more than five years of waiting, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEARCA:DIA) and S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) both managed to break their all-time nominal highs.
In the first three months of the year, the Dow gained 11.3 percent to close at 14,578.54, while the S&P 500 increased 10 percent to finish at 1,569.19. The blue-chips attracted the most attention by posting 10 record-setting closes in March. It was also the best first quarter for the Dow since 1998.
The strong start bodes well for the rest of the year. Since 1950, there have been twelve instances of the Dow gaining more than 8 percent in the first quarter. In each instance the blue-chip index closed the year in positive territory, with an average gain of 21.8 percent.
While there are still headwinds facing the global economy, central banks have been able to juice the markets higher. Michael Hartnett, an investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch recently told clients, “Over the past six years there have been 503 global rate cuts, $11.6 trillion of new central-bank liquidity and irrational exuberance in bond markets blessed by policy makers.” The stock rally “will depend on whether European and Chinese growth expectations recover before reflation in the U.S. and Japan” forces officials to tighten their highly accommodative policies.
Here’s a look at the best performers in the Dow for the first quarter…
The world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company was the fifth best performer in the Dow for the first three months of the year. Shares increased 15.1 percent.
Healthcare continues to be a popular sector…
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ):
The consumer healthcare giant was the fourth best blue-chip with a gain of 16.3 percent in the first quarter. Shares also hit a new all-time high of $81.59.
The Travelers Companies (NYSE:TRV):
The New York-based company is a leader provider of property casualty insurance for auto, home, and business. Shares jumped 17.2 percent in the first quarter to rank as the Dow’s third best performer. Shares also hit a fresh all-time high of $84.37.
American Express Company (NYSE:AXP):
The American multinational financial services company was the second best performing blue-chip in the first quarter. Shares rose 17.4 percent to reach a new all-time high of $67.48.
After plunging 45 percent last year, shares of HP surged 67.3 percent in the first quarter, making it the best performer in the Dow.