Stocks Extend Best Month Since 2015; S&P 500 Clinches Best January Since 1987

U.S. stocks finished higher on Thursday, as the S&P 500 rounded out its best January in 32 years on the back of strong corporate earnings. Cryptocurrencies turned defensive in afternoon trading as XRP failed to sustain a double-digit rally that began midweek.

Stocks Close January in Positive Territory

The S&P 500 Index rose 0.9% to 2,704.10 as shares of communications companies skyrocketed. The communications services category surged 3.7%, with interactive media climbing 5.4%.

Utilities stocks were also among the best performers, rising 2.1% a a sector. Consumer staples advanced 1.9% and health care finished 1.2% higher.

A strong performance in communication services propelled the Nasdaq Composite Index to gains of 1.4% where it closed at 7,281.74.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lagged its peers, but managed to pare losses in the final hour of trading. The blue-chip index finished down 0.1% at 24,999.67. Shares of DowDuPont (DWDP) plunged more than 9% following disappointing revenue numbers.

Best Month in Decades

The S&P 500 Index is concluding its best month since 1987, highlighting a dramatic turn of events since Christmas. A combination of trade-war risks, aggressive policy tightening and a slowing global economy pushed the S&P 500 into bear-market territory last month.

Since bottoming on Christmas Eve, the S&P 500 Index has rallied nearly 15%. That includes a year-to-date return of almost 8%.

Strong corporate earnings have aided in the recovery efforts. As of Friday, more than two-thirds of S&P 500 companies had posted better than expected profits and more than half had reported positive revenue surprises, according to financial research firm FactSet.

On Wednesday, Facebook Inc. (FB) announced record profits for the December quarter despite negative publicity over its data privacy scandal.

However, not all earnings reports have been positive. In addition to DowDuPont, Microsoft Corp (MSFT) also reported disappointing revenue figures Wednesday for its most recent quarter.

Cryptos Under Pressure

XRP brought crypto markets temporary reprieve on Wednesday after global payments network Swift announced it had partnered with a blockchain startup to begin testing its new GPI payments standard. On Thursday, the so-called ‘banker’s cryptocurrency’ failed to sustain the momentum turn and was last down 2.1% at $0.3112.

Related: XRP Leads Crypto Market Recovery Following Quick Burst; Will Altcoins Follow?

The top ten coins reported slight to moderate declines, with Tron, Stellar and bitcoin SV declining between 2.2% and 4.6%. Ethereum, the no. 3 cryptocurrency by market cap, fell 1.3% to $107.38.

Bitcoin’s price dipped 0.5% to $3,467.60, where it concluded its sixth consecutive monthly drop. More on this story: Bitcoin on Track for Sixth Consecutive Monthly Loss; Will February Bring Reprieve?

The cryptocurrency market cap fell by nearly $3 billion to $113.6 billion. Bitcoin’s dominance rate strengthened to 53.3%. Trade volumes across all cryptocurrencies reached $17.6 billion.

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