Wall Street ends higher as investors weigh oil surge

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NEW YORK -- Stocks ended higher in volatile trading Thursday as investors weighed fears about mounting tension in Iran against a report that indicated better-than-expected U.S. economic growth.

The major indexes bounced around, and spent most of the session looking for direction as crude prices surged to a six-month high. Investors remain nervous about the West's response to British sailors held captive in Iran, and oil prices crossed the $66 mark.

This offset the Commerce Department's final measure of fourth-quarter gross domestic product. It showed growth of 2.5%, which could help quell concerns that the economy is slowing too quickly. At the same time, strong economic growth could make it harder for the inflation-wary Federal Reserve to cut short-term interest rates.

Investors also bought-and-sold stocks to window dress their portfolio ahead of Saturday's end of the first quarter. The modest advance snapped a three-day losing streak for the Dow Jones industrials.

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow rose 48.39, or 0.39%, to 12,348.75. The index climbed as high as 12,381.91 during the morning session.

Broader stock indicators also finished higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.30, or 0.37%, to 1,422.53, and the Nasdaq composite index edged up 0.78, or 0.03%, to 2,417.88.

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