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Stocks in US seal third-quarter gains despite bumpy final days

AP--U.S. stocks posted solid gains for the third quarter, although the ride got bumpy at the end.

Stocks fell five days of the last six, including on Friday, the last trading day of the quarter. But the big indexes are still up 4 percent or more for the three months. They're ahead 10 percent or more for the year.

That's despite all the anxiety about the euro, Iran and U.S. politics.

Actually, those worries are exactly why stocks are up, said Uri Landesman, who runs the Platinum Partners hedge fund. He notes that investors around the world feel that U.S. stocks look pretty good, compared to some of the alternatives.

“People are scared, and 2008 wasn't that long ago, and Europe remains a problem,” he said. Those factors “are keeping the market up in the face of some really questionable economic data and questionable behavior by the Fed.”

Investors got some more of that iffy economic data on Friday. The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 0.5 percent last month, compared with July. That was a big jump — but it was driven by higher gas prices, rather than by spending on clothing, electronics and general merchandise. Consumer spending drives nearly 70 percent of economic activity.

The news pushed stocks lower. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 48.84 points to close at 13,437.13. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.48 points to 1,440.67. The Nasdaq composite index fell 20.37 points to 3,116.23. The losses had been steeper in the morning before stocks recovered somewhat around midday.

Stocks fell in all industry groups in the S&P 500 except utilities. Telecommunications and information technology stocks had the biggest losses.

Many investors worry that the recent gains by stocks aren't justified, considering the risks of a confrontation with Iran, weak corporate profits, and Europe's troubles.

“People are wrestling with that disconnect, and trying to choose which chess pieces to move in anticipation” of whatever they think will happen next, said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager at Federated Investors.

“It's been a good quarter,” he said, “but at least for the day we seem to be limping across the finish line.”

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In this Sept. 20 file photo, traders check the prices to begin trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks fell on Friday, Sept. 28, after news that U.S. consumers spent more last month only because higher gas prices forced them to.

(AP)

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