Stocks Post Best First Quarter Since 1998

U.S. stocks closed its best first quarter since 1998 on Friday, led by recently underperforming consumer staples and health care sectors. Up 8.1% for the quarter, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 66.22 points, or 0.50%, to 13,212.04. The S&P 500 gained 5.19 points, or 0.37%, to 1,408.47, up 12% in the first quarter. The Nasdaq Composite fell 3.79 points, or 0.12%, to 3,091.57, leaving it up nearly 19% for the first quarter.

Unemployment fell in 29 states in February and rose in only eight, the government reported Friday, in another sign of broad improvement in the U.S. labor market. The improvement means there are only three states with unemployment above the 10% mark — Nevada with a 12.3% unemployment rate, Rhode Island, which has 11% unemployment, and California, where unemployment stood at 10.9%.

Groupon Inc. said Friday afternoon that it has revised its reported results for the fourth quarter to reflect an increase in the company’s “refund reserve accrual.” The revisions reduced revenue for the period by $14.3 million and reduced net income by $22.6 million, or 4 cents a share.

Crude-oil futures inched higher Friday, but enough to recoup at least some of their recent steep losses and to end the quarter with gains of 4.2%. Oil for May delivery rose 24 cents, or 0.2%, to settle at $103.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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