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Washington, Jumada I 3, 1434, Mar 15, 2013, SPA -- U.S. stocks closed down Friday, as the Dow ended modestly lower following a surprise drop in a measure of consumer confidence.
In U.S. economic news, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment for March unexpectedly fell, raising worries about the impact of higher income tax rates on household spending. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.7 percent last month, driven mainly by a spike in energy prices. CPI was expected to have risen 0.5 percent, according to a Briefing.com consensus, but the annual inflation rate is still just 2 percent, within the range that the Federal Reserve (Fed) finds to be comfortable. Also, industrial production rose more than expected in February, after being flat in the prior month, according to the Fed.
In international economic news, European Union officials agreed to give Portugal more time to meet targets for reducing its debt. Japanese Parliament confirmed the appointment of Haruhiko Kuroda as Bank of Japan governor, raising expectations of swift monetary easing.
In corporate news, Bank of America shares rose after it announced plans to repurchase $10.5 billion of common stock and preferred shares. Wells Fargo said it would increase its quarterly dividend payment to 30 cents per share, starting in the second quarter. J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs both dipped after the Fed approved their capital plans, but with conditions attached. Shares of BB&T, one of only two banks to have its capital plans rejected, also fell.
The dollar weakened against the euro, the pound, and the yen. Light sweet crude oil for April delivery gained 42 cents to $93.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold futures moved up $1.90 to $1,592.60 an ounce.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 25.03, or 0.17 percent, to 14,514.11. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 2.53, or 0.16 percent, to 1,560.70. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 9.86, or 0.30 percent, to 3,249.07.

--SPA
23:34 LOCAL TIME 20:34 GMT
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