Between the November election and the end of 2016, the S&P 500 index gained 4.6%. Since the beginning of 2017, the index has added another 5.53%. The so-called Trump bump peaked at beginning of March with both the S&P and the Dow Jones Industrial Average up around 7%. The decline since then bottomed out for the S&P with a gain for the year of around 4.5%, while the Dow bottomed out at a gain of about 4.0%.
Any way you look at it, that's a good start for the year and miles better than the dismal start to 2016.
Whether stocks will continue their upward trend remains to be seen. Much depends on the ability of the Trump administration to deliver on promised tax cuts and regulatory changes, and we may not have anything but rumors to go on until the second quarter is in the books, given comments that the target date for the plan is August.
For now, though, let's look at the top five S&P 500 index performers for the first quarter.
NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) is up 52.8% year to date. The utilities sector is up about 5.2% for the year. Activist investor Paul Singer's Elliott Management and turnaround specialist C. John Wilder's Bluescape Energy have acquired a combined stake of around 9.4% in the company and are pressing for more cost savings as demand growth has slowed and power prices have declined. Shares closed up 1.8% on Friday, at $18.70 in a 52-week range of $90.84 to $18.95. The 12-month consensus price target is $20.50.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VRTX) is up 48.4%. The health care sector got off to a rocky start this year but recovered in February after industry executives met with the president and he appeared to tamp down some of the criticism he had leveled at drug prices. Shares closed up about 1.9% on Friday, at $109.35 in a 52-week range of $71.46 to $111.88. The consensus price target is $109.86.
Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI) is up 38.9%. Long a leader in the video game sub-group of the tech sector, the company's stock has maintained a solid growth trend, even following fears that the stock had peaked earlier in the quarter. The stock closed at $49.86 Friday, down about 0.7% for the day, in a 52-week range of $33.03 to $50.40. The 12-month price target is $51.37.
Viacom Inc. (VIAB) is up 33.4%. A turnaround appears to be in the works for Viacom now that the Sumner Redstone family drama has been settled and new CEO Bob Bakish has brought some focus to what the media firm should be doing. Shares closed Friday up about 0.6% to $46.62, in a 52-week range of $33.94 to $46.72, a new 52-week high. The consensus price target is $45.96.
Incyte Corp. (INCY) is up 33.3%. Speculation regarding a takeover by Gilead drove shares to a 52-week high in mid-March. Stay tuned. Shares closed down nearly 3% on Friday, at $133.67 in a 52-week range of $68.03 to $153.15. The consensus 12-month price target on the stock is $144.53.