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Stocks Move Modestly Higher At The Open - U.S. Commentary

Stocks moved higher at the start of trading on Friday, extending the move to the upside seen in afternoon trading in the previous session. The major averages have all climbed into positive territory after ending Thursday's trading mixed.

The major averages have pulled back off their highs for the young session in the past few minutes but are holding onto modest gains. The Dow is up 41.70 points or 0.3 percent at 13,187.52, the Nasdaq is up 8.54 points or 0.3 percent at 3,103.90 and the S&P 500 is up 4.94 points or 0.4 percent at 1,408.22.

The initial strength on Wall Street comes on the last trading day of the first quarter, with some institutional investors looking to do some window dressing.

The markets have also benefited from news that Eurozone finance ministers decided to raise the combined size of the region's bailout funds to prevent the possible spillover of the debt crisis in some member states.

Most of the major sectors have moved to the upside, although buying interest has remained relatively subdued. Moderate strength is visible among gold, oil service, and natural gas stocks.

On the economic front, the Commerce Department released a report showing a notable increase in personal spending in the month of February, although personal income rose by less than expected.

The report showed that personal spending rose by 0.8 percent in February following an upwardly revised 0.4 percent increase in January. Economists had expected spending to increase by 0.6 percent compared to the 0.2 percent growth that had been reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, personal income edged up by 0.2 percent in February, matching the downwardly revised increase seen in the previous month. Personal income had been expected to increase by 0.4 percent.

As a result, personal saving as a percentage of disposable income tumbled to 3.7 percent in February from 4.3 percent in January. With the drop, the savings rate fell to its lowest level since August of 2009.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Friday. While Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.3 percent, China's Shanghai Composite Index ended the day up by 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have all moved to the upside on the day. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is up by 0.7 percent, while the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index are up by 1 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries are lingering near the unchanged ling after trending higher in recent sessions. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by less than a basis point at 2.155 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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