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Mar 27, 6:09 PM EDT

Stocks close with slight gains, but still end the week lower


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NEW YORK (AP) -- A tough week on the stock market ended quietly Friday.

Major indexes notched modest gains, not nearly enough to make up for the four previous days of losses. It wound up being the second-worst week for the market so far this year.

The Dow Jones industrial average remains down slightly for 2015, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index is essentially flat.

There was no one major catalyst to move the market one way or another Friday. Biotechnology stocks, battered over the last week, were among the top gainers, while energy stocks lagged as the price of oil fell.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 34.43 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,712.66. The S&P 500 rose 4.87 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,061.02 and the Nasdaq composite rose 27.86 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,891.22.

Stocks fell most of the week due to a combination of weaker-than-expected economic data and concerns that the rapid rise of the dollar may crimp U.S. corporate earnings. Companies start releasing their first-quarter results next month.

The biggest sell-off came on Wednesday, when a report showed orders at U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods fell in February, the latest disappointing data suggesting the U.S. economy has hit a soft patch. The Dow plunged nearly 300 points that day.

The question is whether the U.S. economy is really slowing down or whether the phenomenon can be blamed on the nasty winter weather. In addition to first-quarter earnings reports, investors will also be watching the Labor Department's monthly job markets survey, due out April 3, for insight into how the economy is doing.

"I'm trying to be as forward-looking as possible here. Clearly the weather had some sort of impact this quarter, but I still believe U.S. economic growth is strong," said Scott Wren, a global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors.

The turmoil in Yemen has caused heightened volatility in oil markets this week as well. The tensions have erupted into a regional conflict, with Saudi Arabia and its allies bombing Shiite rebels allied with Iran, while Egyptian officials said a ground assault will follow the airstrikes. Iran denounced the Saudi-led air campaign, calling it "a dangerous step."

While the price of U.S. crude fell sharply Friday, it still finished much higher for week, up more than 10 percent. It was the biggest weekly gain for oil since March 2009.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 5 percent, or $2.56, to close at $48.87 a barrel in New York. U.S. crude finished last week at $45.72. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $2.78 to close at $56.41 in London.

In other futures trading on the NYMEX:

- Wholesale gasoline fell 8.4 cents to close at $1.798 a gallon.

- Heating oil fell 6 cents to close at $1.728 a gallon.

- Natural gas fell 8.2 cents to close at $2.590 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Prices for U.S. government bonds rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.96 percent from 1.99 percent late Thursday.

In the metals market, gold fell $5 to $1,299.80 an ounce, silver fell seven cents to $17.07 an ounce and copper fell four cents to $2.77 an ounce.

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