US stocks close mixed

March 31st, 2012 - 3:57 am ICT by IANS  

New York, March 31 (IANS) US stocks Friday closed mixed at the end of a strong first quarter, as investors weighed the latest development in the eurozone and conflicting US economic data.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 66.22 points, or 0.50 percent, to 13,212.04. The Standard & Poor’s 500 was up 5.19 points, or 0.37 percent, to 1,408.47. The Nasdaq Composite Index edged down 3.79 points, or 0.12 percent, to 3,091.57, Xinhua reported.

Eurozone finance ministers agreed Friday to expand their bailout funds to 700 billion euros (about $931.77 billion), prompting fresh hopes for a better solution to the current debt crisis in Europe.

On the economic front, the Commerce Department said Friday that consumer spending increased 0.8 percent last month, the best gain in about half a year. However, income rose 0.2 percent, weaker than expected.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence rebounded to its highest level in 13 months at the end of March.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s final March reading for the overall consumer sentiment index rose to 76.2, the highest since February 2011, from 75.3 in February.

Investors seemed to have little reason to push stocks higher following the strongest quarter since 2009. The blue-chip Dow rallied 8.1 percent for the quarter. The broader S&P; 500 surged 12 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq soared nearly 19 percent in the first three months.

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