Good Month, Bad Quarter

The first quarter of 2009 ended on Tuesday with stock prices moving modestly higher. However, the three-month period saw significant declines for the major market indexes.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 86.90 points to 7608.92. The index had been up more than 170 points earlier in the session. The Nasdaq composite index was up 26.79 points to 1528.59 and the S&P 500 stock index added 10.34 points to 797.87.

Among local stocks: Sempra Energy gained $1.34 to $46.24; Realty Income added $1.60 to $18.82; and, Gen-Probe was up 99 cents to $45.58.

For the month of March the Dow was up 7.7 percent, its best month since October 2002. The Nasdaq gained 11.0 percent and the S&P 500 rose 8.5 percent.

However, for the first quarter the Dow was down 13.3 percent. It was the sixth consecutive quarter of declines for the blue chip index, the longest losing streak since 1970. The S&P 500 dropped 12.0 percent in the quarter but the Nasdaq was down only 3.1 percent.

Whether or not the March momentum continues could depend on the employment report due out on Friday. The Labor Department will release data on March unemployment including the jobless rate and payroll numbers.

Oil rose $1.05 to $49.66 a barrel on Tuesday. For the quarter crude was up 10.9 percent. Gold finished the first quarter at $922.60 an ounce, up $7.10 on the day. For three month period the metal gained 4.3 percent.

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