Stocks gain as rally holds, euro climbs

Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:04pm EDT
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By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global stocks advanced on Friday, with a broad measure of U.S. equities rising to an almost four-year high after news of subdued inflation added to investment sentiment and helped fuel a retreat in government debt markets.

While the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index rose for a fifth straight week, gaining 2.4 percent for its best weekly performance since mid-December, the Dow and Nasdaq fell on Friday in a sign of caution after the run-up in U.S. stocks.

A report on U.S. consumer prices in February eased a hawkish view on interest rates, causing the dollar to fall and helping spur the sell-off in bonds. Improving U.S. economic data had recently sparked speculation that the Federal Reserve would raise rates sooner than its time frame of late 2014.

U.S. stocks mostly held near break-even for most of the session, with the S&P 500 Index staying above the 1,400 level it reached earlier in the week for the first time since May 2008.

The almost 30 percent rally from October lows for the S&P has made investors want to see further gains in corporate earnings, said Rick Meckler, president of hedge fund LibertyView Capital Management LLC, in Jersey City, New Jersey.

"It seems like we're at a key point in time in terms of show-me some results, instead of the anecdotal signs everybody's feeling better," Meckler said. "We're getting more to an equilibrium to sustain the incredible growth of the first quarter."

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI ended down 20.14 points, or 0.15 percent, at 13,232.62. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX added 1.57 points, or 0.11 percent, to 1,404.17. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was down 1.11 points, or 0.04 percent, at 3,055.26.

Global stocks advanced, helped by an unexpected jump in European exports in January and the U.S. economic data.   Continued...

An investor gestures as she talks to another investor (not pictured) in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shenyang, Liaoning province March 14, 2012. China shares sank 2.6 percent on Wednesday, the biggest one-day percentage fall in three-and-half months, after Premier Wen Jiabao doused expectations of any near-term easing of measures in the property sector, warning that letting up on regulation would risk chaos in the housing market. REUTERS/Sheng Li