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MARKET CLOSE: Wall Street takes optimistic view of latest data

Investors digested some more conflicting economic data Friday, but chose to close out a forgettable first quarter with a bit of buying. The Nasdaq composite added 20 points to close at 1,840.27, down 88 points for the week.

The Dow Jones industrial average moved up 80 points to finish at 9,878.78, up 374 points for the week.

On Friday, the Commerce Department reported that consumer spending, which fuels two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product growth, rose 0.3 percent in February, in line with economists' estimates. It also revised January's spending figures from an increase of 0.7 percent to 1 percent, the biggest increase in 11 months.

However, the National Association of Purchasing Management in Chicago said its index in March fell to 35, sharply weaker than the 43.1 forecast and the index's lowest level since April 1982. In February the index was at 43.2.

That bad news was offset by a University of Michigan report that said consumer confidence rose to 91.5 points, above the Wall Street consensus of 90.5. That increase breaks a three-month string of dropping figures, suggesting Americans are feeling better about the economy's long-term prospects.

"The market is confused," Edgar Peters, chief investment officer at PanAgora Asset Management, told Reuters. "In the manufacturing area, we see that there is a slowdown going on. But the consumer sentiment report shows that people don't have to worry to much about the consumer pullback."

Internet stocks posted mixed results Friday as Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) picked up 75 cents to $15.75, while America Online Time Warner (NYSE: AOL) and CMGI (Nasdaq: CMGI) shed 60 cents and 1 cent a share, respectively. (Nasdaq: AMZN) inched up 23 cents to $10.23, and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) closed up $2.06 to $36.19.

Cirrus Logic (Nasdaq: CRUS) warned investors it will miss earnings estimates for the next two quarters, citing a shifting product mix and an inventory charge. Its shares closed off 63 cents to $14.94.

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) clipped 25 cents to finish at $26.31. Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) dropped $1.76 to $26.54, and IBM (NYSE: IBM) picked up $1.13 to $96.17.

Micron Technology (NYSE: MU) fell $3.72 to $41.53 despite topping estimates for its second quarter Thursday night.

PRI Automation (Nasdaq: PRIA), which makes technology used in semiconductor manufacturing, said it would post a second-quarter loss and lay off 20 percent of its work force. The company said it was stung by chipmakers' reductions in capital spending. The stock closed off 81 cents to $17.13.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) lost 75 cents to $54.63. Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) picked up 46 cents to $14.98 and Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW) gained 67 cents to close at $15.37.

Shares of BEA Systems (Nasdaq: BEAS) rose $3.19 to $41.53 after CEO Bill Coleman said the company was more than comfortable with its first-quarter projections. Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW) also denied it was going to bundle its own server into its Solaris operating system, a move that would have hurt demand for BEA's application servers.

Among widely held PC stocks, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) slid $1.19 to $25.75, Gateway (NYSE: GTW) inched up 1 cent to $16.81, Compaq (NYSE: CPQ) lost 92 cents to $18.15 and Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL) closed off 46 cents to $22.07.

Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) added 56 cents to $15.81. Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) rose 59 cents to $9.97, and Nortel Networks (NYSE: NT) picked up 55 cents to $14.05.

ZDII staff and Reuters contributed to this roundup.