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Stocks Eke Out Small Gains as Data Is Decent

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks vacillated and finished marginally higher Tuesday on a light trading day featuring improving data as investors sought to book profits as quarter-end nears.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 12 points, or 0.1%, to 10,907. The S&P 500 closed up a half point to 1173, and the Nasdaq added 6 points, or 0.3%, to 2411.

"Basically, the housing prices showed the lowest decline in three years, which is a sign that prices might be stabilizing, and we had a nice leap in consumer confidence, which investors are hoping will translate into higher consumer spending," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners.

Earlier, the Case-Shiller 20-city home price index reported an annual decline of 0.7%, and consumer confidence , as measured by the Conference Board, soared to a better-than-expected reading of 52.5 in March.

"A burst of confidence is always good for the market, and we're approaching the end of the quarter, so there's some window-dressing going on," Cardillo said earlier Tuesday, adding that pushing past psychologically significant levels like Dow 11,000 could cause a shift in sentiment. "There could be a tug-of-war between the bulls and the bears."

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