S&P 500-stock index has best 1st quarter since 1998

Sunday, April 4, 2010

U.S. stocks rose for a fifth straight week, pushing the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index and the Dow Jones industrial average to their highest closes in 18 months, as fresh signs emerge that the economy is recovering.

Energy companies led the advance as crude oil exceeded $84 a barrel for the first time since October 2008. Commodity producers rallied as a decline in the value of the U.S. dollar lifted prices for gold, copper and aluminum. 3M, the maker of 55,000 products as varied as Post-it Notes and respiratory masks, was the largest gainer among the 30 Dow components, its shares getting a 3.5 percent boost for the week.

The S&P 500 rose 1 percent, to 1178.10, completing its longest streak of weekly gains in almost a year. The Dow increased 0.7 percent, to 10,927.07. U.S. stock exchanges were closed April 2 for the Good Friday holiday.

"To stay at these levels or move higher, you're going to need to see continuing evidence the economy is gaining momentum and continuing to improve," said Robert N. Schaeffer, a money manager at Becker Capital Management in Portland, Ore.

The S&P 500 rallied 4.9 percent during the first quarter, the biggest advance to start a year since 1998.

Shares in Japan, Sweden, Russia and Switzerland did best during the period among the 20 largest stock markets, with their benchmarks rising at least 5 percent. Spain, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong did worst, falling 2.9 percent or more.

The U.S. Treasury will auction $28 billion of three-month bills and $29 billion of six-month bills Monday. They yielded 0.16 percent and 0.24 percent, respectively, in when-issued trading. The government will sell $26 billion of one-year bills the next day.

-- Bloomberg News

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