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US: Stocks gain on optimism over Q1 earnings

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street rose solidly Monday on confidence over first-quarter earnings, which investors hope will shift focus away from worries over trade policy, interest rates and geopolitical turmoil.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 0.9 per cent at 24,573.04.

The broad-based S&P 500 advanced 0.8 per cent to 2,677.84, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.7 per cent to 7,158.28.

Companies in the S&P 500 are expected to report an average 17.3 per cent increase on profits compared with the year-ago period thanks to a strengthening US economy and the boost from tax cuts, according to FactSet.

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"If investors have a chance to focus on profits, then the stock market should do fine," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors.

"It's only when they focus on headlines and tweets and other things that there are problems." This week's earnings calendar includes Goldman Sachs, General Electric, Netflix and Procter & Gamble.

US stocks also picked up momentum from relief that weekend strikes by Britain, France and the United States on Syria did not spur major retaliation from Syria's allies Iran and Russia and from better-than-expected US retail sales data.

Bank of America climbed 0.5 per cent after reporting Monday its 34.2 per cent jump in first-quarter profits to US$6.5 billion behind a strong performance in key businesses thanks in part to a lift from higher interest rates.

Dow member Merck shot up 2.6 per cent after reporting successful clinical results for its Keytruda treatment for lung cancer.

Pharmacy stocks Walgreens Boots Alliance and CVS Health won 3.8 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively following a report on CNBC that Amazon was abandoning a plan to sell drugs to hospitals.

Starbucks rose 0.3 per cent following an apology to two black men who were arrested in a cafe in a move widely seen as evidence of racial bias.

In a statement, CEO Kevin Johnson expressed the company's "deepest apologies" to the men for what he said was the "reprehensible outcome" of the incident.