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Stocks solid despite rising fuel cost

NEW YORK – U.S. stocks on Friday notched weekly gains that pushed the S&P 500 to its highest close since mid-2008 as economic reports mostly offset concern about rising oil costs.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 2 points to 12,982.95, leaving it barely changed from the week-ago close.

The S&P 500 index rose 2.28 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,365.74, its highest level since June 2008, meaning it notched a new peak for the bull market that started in March 2009.

“The market has rallied in the face” of escalating fuel costs, said David Rolfe, chief investment officer at Wedgewood Partners in St. Louis.

“The sideways action we’re seeing is a tug of war between better economic data and rising energy prices,” he said.

The Nasdaq composite rose 6.77 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,963.75.

Rising tensions over Iran’s nuclear program pushed the price of crude to a nine-month high, with oil futures rising $1.94 to end at $109.77 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“Either we are going to have resolution to geopolitical tensions in Iran, or we’re going to continue to be concerned about disruptions in supply and watch it rise. If we thought we were getting closer to a resolution out of Iran, we would easily take $15 out of the price of a barrel of oil,” said Art Hogan, a managing director at Lazard Capital Markets.

“That said, that bid can get larger as things get hotter in the Strait of Hormuz,” he added of the shipping lane close to Iran’s border.

Stock indexes added to mild gains after a final read of February consumer confidence of 75.3, its highest in a year. Economists had expected the University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters gauge to come in at a reading of 73.

The government reported new single-family homes sold at a 321,000 annual rate in January, compared to December’s upwardly revised level of 324,000, with the latter marking the biggest rise in monthly sales in a year. Economists expected sales of 315,000 in January.


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