U.S. stocks opened higher on Tuesday, the final trading session of the first quarter, ahead of data expected to show an improvement in consumer confidence in March. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 79 points to 7,601. Alcoa is higher on an upgrade. The S&P 500 index gained 8 points to 795, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 22 points, or 1.5%, to 1,524. Ahead of the open, the stock futures showed little reaction to a report that home prices fell a record 19% in the 12-months ended in January, although home builder, Lennar is down 8% after missing estimates by a wide margin. Most of the financials are trading higher. Congressman, Barney Frank is asking for more realistic mark to market accounting standards which is good. The tech sector is performing well. Google is higher on an upgrade. Also, the company inked a distribution deal with Disney for their Youtube division. Amazon and Microsoft are higher following upgrades. The commodity sector is holding firm. Freeport McMoRan is one of the few commodity stocks trading lower on a downgrade. The healthcare sector looks good. Unitedhealth Group is up 3%. Aetna is up 3% after having their credit rating reaffirmed. After the first half an hour, the averages pulled back only to rebound once again. After the first hour, the Dow jumped 100 points as the financials continued to improve. Congressman, Barney Frank is making more favorable announcements regarding mark to market accounting, in particular, allowing banks to recoup some of their losses they took under the more stringent rules. The Nasdaq rose 27 points. Even though the averages look good, some sectors are more mixed. The retail sector is showing some weakness. Callaway is lower after having their earnings numbers cut. The commodities are pulling back. Freeport McMoRan is now down 4%. In the afternoon the Dow inched higher, rising 140 points. The Nasdaq rose 38 points. Everything seems to be working. In the last hour, the sellers stepped back in to create a little more volatility. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 86 points, or 1.2%, to end at 7,608. For the month, the Dow gained 7.7%, its best monthly gain since October 2002. The S&P 500 index gained 10 points, or 1.3%, to close at 797. It rose 8.5% for the month, also its best monthly performance since October 2002. The Nasdaq Composite gained 26 points, or 1.8%, to end at 1,528. It rose 10.9% in March, its best monthly gain since November 2002. For the quarter, the Dow fell 13.3%, the S&P 500 declined 11.7%, and the Nasdaq dropped 3.1%.
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