S&P 500 ends Q1 with biggest quarterly gain since 2009

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NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks surged on Friday (March 29) on optimism over US-China trade talks in the final session of the first quarter, the S&P 500's best since 2009.

The broad-based S&P 500 ended at 2,834.40, up 0.7 per cent for the session and 13.1 per cent for the quarter.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.8 per cent to 25,928.68, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index also advanced 0.8 per cent to 7,729.32.

Friday's session was bolstered by upbeat comments from Trump administration officials following the latest round of trade negotiations in Beijing.

The White House reported "progress" in what it termed "candid and constructive discussions," saying that the next round of talks will be held in the US capital on April 3.

Investors also greeted comments from White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow supporting a cut in Federal Reserve interest rates.

Kudlow told Axios that he wanted the Fed to "immediately" cut interest rates by 50 basis points.

The Fed has already signaled that it expects no interest rate hikes in 2019 in a major retreat from prior policy that has helped propel stocks this year.

In its premiere on public markets, ride-hailing company Lyft finished at US$78.29, up 8.7 per cent from its initial public offering price after the IPO raised US$2.3 billion.

Wells Fargo dropped 1.6 per cent after Tim Sloan announced he was stepping down as chief executive following criticism in Congress following lapses. Some analysts welcomed the news, but said it added to uncertainty over the bank's strategy.

Celgene jumped 7.9 per cent after activist fund Starboard called off its proxy fight to block a proposed takeover of the company by Bristol-Myers Squibb. Bristol-Myers fell 0.3 per cent.

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