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Gun stocks rally after upbeat background-checks data

Tomi Kilgore

Shares of gun and ammunition makers rallied Thursday, in the wake of upbeat government data on firearm background checks. The FBI's National Instant Background Systems (NICS) said there 2,644,851 checks in March, up from down from 2,767,699 a year ago, but up from 2,053,886 in February, the biggest February-to-March increase since it was launched in 1998. On a two-year average basis, analyst James Hardiman at Wedbush said NICS checks fell 1% in March after a 7% decline in February, while he was expecting a "similar" decline. Shares of Smith & Wesson parent American Outdoor Brands Corp. hiked up 3.4% and Sturm, Ruger & Co. gained 0.6%, while ammunition maker Vista Outdoor Inc. surged 5.5% in afternoon trade. Among gun sellers, shares of Walmart Inc. tacked on 0.8% and Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. ran up 3.0%. In comparison, the S&P 500 was virtually unchanged. "While there isn't a one-to-one correlation between gun sales and NICS checks, NICS is seen as the best overall indicator of monthly gun sales," Hardiman wrote in a note to clients.