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U.S. stocks close tough week on bright note

By Laura Mandaro, MarketWatch –

SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. stocks rose Friday on a round of bargain hunting and a surge in energy shares, curbing what still turned out to be the worst week of the year for two stock benchmarks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 34.59 points, or 0.3 percent, to 13,080.73. The S&P 500 gained 4.33 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,397.11. The Nasdaq Composite rose 4.60 points, or 0.2 percent, to 3,067.92.

The higher close ended a three-day losing streak for the Dow and S&P 500.

Still, the Dow and the S&P 500 notched their worst week of the year, falling 1.2 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. The Nasdaq rose 0.4 percent for the week.

“I think today is more about portfolios that have missed this rally and are looking to get in on a dip,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management.

Plus, a drop in the dollar “reignited some dollar-sensitive sectors, such as oil, basic materials,” and industrials sensitive to international revenues, he said.

On the Dow, equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. and oil conglomerate Chevron Corp. contributed the most to the index’s point gain on Friday. Hewlett-Packard Co. rose the most in percent terms, gaining 2.6 percent.

Materials, particularly chemical stocks, and energy sectors on the S&P 500 rose the most, gaining nearly 1 percent each. Of the 10 industry groups, only tech and telecoms fell.

Components Discover Financial Services and Nabors Industries Ltd. rose 4.1 percent, the two best on the S&P 500.

Crude-oil futures for May delivery rose 1.4 percent to settle at $106.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, helped by concerns about global supplies following a report that Iranian oil exports fell around 300,000 barrels per day in March. They dipped for the week.

Gold, silver and industrial metals also advanced Friday.

The dollar declined against the euro and yen, adding to weekly losses, as falling U.S. bond yields reduced the attraction of U.S. debt. The dollar index fell 0.5 percent to 79.344 on Friday.

U.S. stocks had veered between mild gains and losses in morning trading, after lukewarm U.S. housing data and weaker global manufacturing data in prior sessions dented sentiment.

Purchasing managers indexes in China and Europe, released earlier in the week, showed private activity in contraction.

Though expected, the data were “a reason for traders to take a little off the table,” said Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist at Davidson Cos. in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

“We’re in a light news zone, (that’s) lacking fuel for the bulls. It will probably be this way through the end of the month.”

Stocks, which wavered in opening trades, fell after data on housing, sending the Dow as much as 43 points lower.

Midmorning, the Commerce Department said sales of new homes dipped 1.6 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted 313,000, from a slightly downwardly revised 318,000 in January. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected improving sales, at a 330,000 annual rate.

The key stock indexes are up between 7 percent and 18 percent this year, a heady move that had prompted strategists in recent weeks to say a correction was likely.

But the gains have come alongside light trading volumes, which has cast some doubts on the strength of the rally.

On Friday, volume on the New York Stock Exchange was 741.7 million and NYSE composite volume was 3.5 billion, well short of last year’s average of 4.3 billion. Nasdaq Composite volume was 1.4 billion, or 80 percent of the last month’s volume.

On the NYSE, advancers surpassed decliners by more than two to one.

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