March got off to a hot start on Monday, as equity markets posted gains on a positive manufacturing outlook and multiple reports of M&A activity. Most notably, UK-based Prudential PLC agreed to buy AIG’s Asia operations for $35.5 billion in cash and stock. Elsewhere, the Institute of Supply Management reported that its index of manufacturing activity reflected an expansion for February, while the employment index grew for the third consecutive month. Chilean stock markets reopened for business as usual on Monday following a devastating earthquake over the weekend. The iShares MSCI Chile Investable Market Index Fund (ECH) lost 1.4% on the day, while the iPath Copper Total Return ETN (JJC) jumped 1.8% on concerns of prolonged supply disruptions in the world’s largest copper producing country.
The ETFdb 60 Index added 6.35 points, or 0.6%, on the day to close at 1,024.65, its highest level in five weeks. Winners outnumbered losers by more than two-to-one, and more than a third of the index components gained 1% or more on the day.
The iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index Fund (FXI) led the way higher, adding 2.5% on the day. Asian equity markets were broadly higher on the day as data showed that China’s manufacturing sector expanded in February. Mining stocks charged higher following the earthquake in Chile while banks also turned in big gains on hopes that loose monetary policy will remain in place.
The United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) was among the few losers on the day, sliding 2.0%. Despite some predictions for colder-than-normal temperatures in parts of the country, prices sunk on data indicating that producers have begun putting gas rigs back to work. According to oilfield services provider Baker Hughes, the number of natural gas rigs has climbed 19% in recent weeks to more than 900. Elsewhere, Chilean authorities reported on Monday that the country’s GNL Quintero liquefied natural gas terminal has been operational since Saturday’s earthquake. For updates on all the big ETF winners and losers, sign up for our free ETF newsletter.
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.