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Dow climbs near record, sputters; stocks drop

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

NEW YORK — It came oh so close.

The Dow Jones industrial average came within 15 points of its record on Thursday afternoon. Then the momentum petered out, and the Dow and other indexes broke a two-day winning streak and closed lower.

Economic data and company reports reflected an economy beating investors' low expectations rather than one growing like gangbusters.

Impending government budget cuts also cast a pall for some investors.

“There was no dramatic, great news,” said Leon LaBrecque, CEO of LJPR in Troy, Mich. “There's no remarkable economic information. Earnings are pretty much mixed.”

Thursday trading started with the stock market plodding along before sending investors on a whipsaw day. After gaining a combined 291 points on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Dow spent Thursday morning darting between small gains and losses.

Dow stocks took a decisive turn upward in the early afternoon. About 2:30 p.m., the average hit 14,149 — just 15 points from the Oct. 9, 2007, record of 14,164.53.

Then the rally sputtered and stocks turned lower in the final few minutes of trading.

The Dow ended down 20.88 points, or 0.2 percent, to 14,054.49.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 1.31, or 0.09 percent, to 1,514.68. The Nasdaq composite index edged down 2.07, or 0.07 percent, to 3,160.19

Some said the market's fleeting gain Thursday was more about its general tendency to rise over time, and not necessarily a reflection of a surge in strength for the economy.

“People have to separate the economy from the stock market,” said Ed Butowsky, managing partner of ChapwoodFinance.com in Dallas.

Thursday's data didn't provide a clear picture on the economy..

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