Global stocks dip as investors take profits after strong quarter

Fri Mar 31, 2017 5:26pm EDT
 
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By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An index of world stocks dipped on Friday as investors locked in a quarterly gain that has given equities their best start to a year since 2012, while oil finished its worst quarter since 2015.

Stock investors took profits following the strong quarter, and emerging market equities led the day's decline.

World stocks as measured by the MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS were down 0.4 percent on Friday after gaining 6.4 percent in the quarter. The MSCI emerging markets index .MSCIEF dropped 1.1 percent on Friday but still had an 11.1 percent increase in the quarter. (reut.rs/2ne9sjH)

U.S. stocks ended down slightly as investors weighed whether upcoming corporate earnings reports will be strong enough to justify the market's lofty valuations.

The S&P 500 index is trading at about 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months, compared with its long-term average of 15.

For the quarter ending Friday, the S&P 500 gained 5.5 percent, its strongest first-quarter performance since 2013 and best gain of any quarter since the last quarter of 2015.

"Valuations are as stretched as they ever get," said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co in Nashville. "Certainly that's cause for concern if earnings don't grow the way they are anticipated to grow."

Over 40 strategists polled by Reuters in the past week expected the S&P 500 to rise by just another 2 percent by the end of the year.   Continued...

 
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S. March 30, 2017.   REUTERS/Brendan McDermid