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Stocks End Best Q1 Since 1998

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Go ahead and open that 401(k) statement. The first quarter was the best for stocks since 1998, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 up 12 percent since the start of the year.

That’s quite a start for stocks after 2011, which saw most major indexes about flat for the year. An improving jobs picture and strong corporate profits boosted nearly all types of equities. The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 19 percent in the quarter, led by that powerhouse Apple, which rocketed 48 percent so far this year. The Dow Jones industrial average finished the quarter with an eight percent gain.

More than $3.6 trillion has been added to U.S. stocks since the S&P 500 fell to the year’s low in October, according to data by Bloomberg. Stocks have more than regained the ground they lost in the market meltdown of 2008.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 66.22 points, or 0.50 percent, Friday to 13,212.04. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 5.19 points, or 0.37 percent, to 1,408.47. The Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 3.79 points, or 0.12 percent, to 3,091.57.

“Conditions have improved compared to last quarter, with the U.S. economy showing signs of acceleration and European policymakers moving further along the path of progress. With the bearish tone receding, investors should consider moving into “risk” assets and out of “safe” assets, especially on pullbacks,” the investment firm BlackRock said in a commentary on its web site.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio