U.S. stocks post biggest first-quarter gains in 12 years

08:30, April 01, 2010      

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U.S. stocks posted the biggest first-quarter gains in more than ten years even as major indexes ended the session on sour notes Wednesday, pressured by disappointing employment and manufacturing data.

As of Wednesday's close, the Standard & Poor's 500 index, which is regarded as the best indicator for the U.S. stock market dipped 3.84, or 0.33 percent, to 1,169.43, while it finished its best first quarter in 12 years with a 4.8 percent jump.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 50.79, or 0.47 percent, to 10,856.63, while the blue-chip index was up 4.1 percent for the first quarter, its best since 1999.

The Tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 12.73, or 0.53 percent, to end at 2, 397.96, however, it also rallied most in the first quarter since the year of 2006.

Equities had vacillated between gains and losses much of the session as rising stocks in natural-resource firms countered a report of more layoffs, frustrating investors looking for a positive tally in the upcoming monthly employment report.

For every two stocks that gained three lost ground on the New York Stock Exchange, where trading volume was light, as is expected ahead of a coming holiday weekend.

Wall Street opened lower after ADP reported that private sector employers slashed 23,000 jobs in March, missing expectations for an increase of about 40,000 jobs. And the February data was adjusted to 24,000 jobs lost from originally reported 20,000. The report spurred concerns that economists are too optimistic about the rebound in employment two days before a Labor Department report forecast to show the biggest growth in jobs in three years.

Major indexes dropped deeper after the worse-than-expected Chicago PMI reading. The regional manufacturing index slipped to 58.8 in March from 62.6 the previous month, while economists had expected a smaller drop to 61.

Meanwhile, factory orders for manufactured goods rose 0.6 percent in February, slightly higher than analysts' expectations but significantly less than January's 2.5 percent increase.



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