Market Update: Dow Jumps More than 200 Points as Syria Fears Subside

U.S. stocks climbed on Monday, with the Dow Jones adding more than 200 points as fears of an escalating conflict in Syria faded and investors turned their attention to Q1 earnings.

Stocks Rally

The blue-chip Dow index surged 212.90 points, or 0.9%, to close at 24,573.04. That was its highest settlement in nearly a month.

Twenty-five of 30 index members recorded gains, led by UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) and Merck & Co Inc. (MRK). Health stocks jumped after Merck reported that its cancer-treatment drug Keytruda lowered the risk of death by 51% when combined with chemotherapy.

The broader S&P 500 Index rose 0.8% to 2,677.84, with all 11 primary sectors finishing higher.

Half a dozen sectors reported gains of 1% or more, including telecommunications, consumer staples and commodity-sensitive segments like energy and materials.

A strong performance in the technology sector also lifted the Nasdaq Composite Index, which added 0.7% to finish at 7,156.29.

The CBOE VIX, Wall Street’s tracker for implied volatility, declined 4.9% to 16.56, its lowest since Mar. 16. The so-called “volatility index” has declined by roughly a quarter since Apr. 9, trimming its  year-to-date return to 48.5%.

On the earnings front, Bank of America (BAC) reported stronger than expected results for the first quarter. Banks JPMorgan (JPM), Citigroup (C) and Wells Fargo (WFC) kicked off the earnings quarter on Friday with mostly upbeat results.

Investors have high expectations for Q1 earnings. Financial research firm FactSet is projecting year-over-year profit growth of 17.3%, which would mark the strongest quarter of gains since 2011.

Crypto Rally Pauses

The rally in cryptocurrencies paused at the start of the week, with bitcoin and the major altcoins giving back some of their weekend gains.

Crypto assets were valued at $323.5 billion on Monday, down roughly 3% from the previous day. Bitcoin, which briefly traded above $8,400, was down 3.5% at $7,990 by the late afternoon. The world’s largest cryptocurrency by market cap made a definitive break above $7,000 last Thursday and has been trending higher ever since.

All the major coins in the top-five were down at the start of the week. Ethereum fell nearly 4% but continued to trade above $500. Ripple’s XRP slipped 2.3% to $0.657.

There was no immediate catalyst for the recent decline, which means profit-taking and technical positioning were likely at play. At current levels, the crypto market remains 30% higher than it was last Wednesday.

Some analysts expect cryptocurrencies to surge after Apr. 17, which is the deadline for Americans to file their taxes with the IRS. However, recent price trends suggest that’s already underway now that most traders have already filed their returns. That said, Credit Karma says that fewer than 100 of its 250,000 tax filers have reported any capital gains on cryptocurrencies.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Chief Editor to and Contributor to, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi