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Stocks gain as Americans open their wallets

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KEN SWEET | March 28, 2014 02:02 PM EST | AP

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NEW YORK (AP) — A rise in consumer spending lifted the stock market Friday afternoon, and halted two days of declines. Microsoft helped technology companies recover from a week of losses.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,859 as of 1:35 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 80 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,344 and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite rose 24 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,175.

START ME UP: The biggest gainer in the Dow was Microsoft, which rose $1.06, or 3 percent, to $40.43. The company announced Thursday that it was bringing Microsoft Office to the iPad and would shift its focus away from Windows, a move that analysts liked.

"We continue to view (this) as a massive revenue and operating profit opportunity for Microsoft," analysts at Credit Suisse said in a report Thursday. Google and Intel rose about 1 percent.

SPENDING UNFROZEN: Investors were encouraged by news that Americans increased their spending last month, a hopeful sign for an economy that has been slowed by months of severe winter weather. The Commerce Department said consumer spending inched up 0.3 percent, a hair short of economists' forecasts. Incomes rose at the same pace.

"The economy is now reaching the point where it can shake off the weather-related excuses," Doug Cote, a market strategist for ING Investment Management, wrote in an email.

CBS SPLITS: CBS Outdoor, a major outdoor advertising company, rose $1.93, or 7 percent, to $29.93 on its first day of trading. CBS decided to spin off CBS Outdoor into a separate publicly traded company because executives believed billboard advertising did not fit well with CBS's primary business of broadcasting.

TESLA BEATS BACK FIRE: Electric car maker Tesla Motors rose $6.62, or 3 percent, to $214. The stock rise followed news that federal safety regulators had closed their investigation into allegations of battery fires without any penalty against Tesla. The company also said it would install more shielding around its battery packs.

OTHER MARKETS: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note hovered around 2.72 percent, up from 2.69 percent Thursday. The price of crude oil edged up 31 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $101.60 a barrel. Gold was little changed at $1,292.40 an ounce.