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Published: Saturday, 3/31/2012

Stocks post biggest gain for quarter in decade


NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks snared their biggest first-quarter gain in more than a decade on Friday after a better-than-anticipated rise in consumer confidence and spending boosted views of the economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 8.1 percent for the quarter, closing at 13,212.04 and sealing the biggest first-quarter point gain in its history.

The Standard & Poor's 500 closed at 1,408.47, garnering a 12 percent gain, its biggest first-quarter advance since 1998.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite closed at 3,091.57, giving it an 18.7 percent gain for the quarter.

Consumer spending rose 0.8 percent in February, the most in seven months. But income grew 0.2 percent, matching January's results. And taking inflation into account, income after taxes fell for a second straight month.

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