Monday stocks push higher on improving reports

Dow at 12,253 so far today, up 32 points.

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks edged higher to start the week after economic reports suggested that the recovery is continuing.
The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose at its fastest pace in four months in February. The National Association of Realtors said more Americans signed contracts to buy homes in February than economists were expecting. Sales rose in every region but the Northeast, but remained below what is considered a healthy level.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 20 points, or 0.2 percent, to 12,241 in afternoon trading Monday. The broader S&P 500 index rose 2, or 0.1 percent, to 1,315. The Nasdaq composite inched up 2, or 0.1 percent, to 2,745.
“We are continuing to grind higher because all of the economic data that was stronger than expected,” said John Brady, a senior vice president at MF Global. “There was no more bad news out of the Middle East over the weekend and the situation in Libya looks like it’s stabilizing.”
In Libya, rebels gained ground against longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi after international airstrikes against Gadhafi’s forces. Oil prices fell as Libyan rebels retook control of key port towns Ras Lanouf and Brega and said they would resume exporting crude within weeks.
In the U.S., Eastman Kodak Co. jumped nearly 11 percent after the U.S. Trade Commission said it will review a judge’s finding in a patent dispute with Apple Inc. and Research in Motion Ltd. A favorable ruling could pave the way for Kodak to reap higher fees.

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