March 31, 2017 / 6:53 PM / 6 months ago

US STOCKS-Rock-solid quarter on Wall Street ending with a whimper

* S&P 500, Dow on pace for best 1st qtr since 2013

* JPMorgan, Wells Fargo weigh on S&P 500

* Dow -0.28 pct, S&P -0.10 pct, Nasdaq +0.02 pct (Updates to afternoon)

By Noel Randewich

March 31 (Reuters) - Wall Street edged lower on Friday, held down by Exxon and JPMorgan Chase as investors wrapped up a strong quarter and weighed whether corporate earnings reports will justify the market’s lofty valuations.

Major indexes have hit a series of record highs following the election of President Donald Trump on bets that he would improve economic growth by cutting taxes and boosting infrastructure spending. The rally has also benefited from a raft of robust economic data and a pickup in corporate earnings growth.

For the quarter ending Friday, the S&P 500 is on track to end 5.6 percent higher with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 4.5 pct, their biggest first-quarter gains in four years.

Investors are now looking to the upcoming quarterly earnings season to justify pricy valuations.

First-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to rise 10.1 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The index is trading at about 18 times earnings estimates for the next 12 months, compared to its long-term average of 15.

“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 the are anticipated to grow.”

At 2:25 pm ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.28 percent at 20,671.29 points, while the S&P 500 had lost 0.10 percent to 2,365.55.

The Nasdaq Composite added 0.02 percent to 5,915.42.

Six of the 11 major S&P sectors fell, with the financial index down 0.57 percent. JPMorgan Chase fell 1.32 percent and Wells Fargo & Co lost 0.78 percent. Also weighing on the S&P 500 and Dow, Exxon Mobil fell 1.92 percent.

FMC Corp rallied 13.77 percent after it agreed to buy DuPont’s crop protection business and sell its health and nutrition unit to DuPont. DuPont fell 1.39 percent

Amazon.com was the top stock on the S&P and the Nasdaq, with a 1.3 percent gain.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.52-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.22-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 16 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 87 new highs and 15 new lows. (Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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