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Stocks Edge Higher at Close

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major market averages edged higher Tuesday, weighed by blue-chip technology stocks, after investors digested auto sales figures and commodities made sharp gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed higher by 2 points, or 0.02%, to 10,406. The S&P 500 gained 3 points, or 0.2%, to 1118 and the Nasdaq finished higher by 7 points, or 0.3%, to 2281.

>>Apple, H-P: Top Computer-Hardware Stocks

Stocks traded in the green for much of the session, but investors took profits late in the afternoon. Big tech names, including Microsoft (MSFT), Intel (INTC), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and IBM (IBM), dragged on the Dow more than stocks in most other sectors by the end of the day.

Market observers took in a range of car sales numbers throughout the day. Overall industry sales landed in-line with expectations, coming to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 10.38 million units, according to Autodata.

General Motors said February U.S. auto sales rose 11.5% year over year. The company also said it would recall 1.3 million cars to fix a power-steering problem and earlier in the session announced it would triple funding for the turnaround of its Opel and Vauxhall divisions in Europe to 1.9 billion euros ($2.57 billion).

Shares of Ford (F) slipped 19 cents, or 1.5%, to $12.22 by the closing bell. Still, the automaker surpassed GM on a 43% surge in February sales.

Snowstorms and recalls hurt Toyota (TM - Get Report) sales, which slid 9%. But Toyota shares added 78 cents, or 1.1%, to $74.42.

Elsewhere, Honda (HMC) shares slipped 10 cents, or 0.3%, to $34.87 and Daimler AG (DAI) advanced by 57 cents, or 1.3%, to $42.96 after each reported improving February sales.

The dollar turned lower against a basket of currencies in the afternoon, with the dollar index down by 0.2%.

In commodities markets, crude oil for April delivery traded 98 cents higher to settle at $79.68 a barrel, and the April gold contract gained $19.10 to settle at $1,137.40 an ounce.

The upbeat commodity moves likely lent a hand to material and energy stocks, as the Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index and the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector Index improved 2.4% and 1.4%, respectively.
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