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Stocks stumble late, but keep gains

NEW YORK - The Standard & Poor's 500 notched another record high as investors shrugged off government data showing that economic growth in the final three months of the year was much weaker than initially estimated.

The S&P 500 rose five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,859 Friday. It closed out February with a five percent gain for the month, recovering the ground it lost in January. It's up 0.6 percent for the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 49 points, or 0.3 percent, at 16,321. The Dow had been up as much as 126 points earlier in the day.

Weakness in technology stocks held back the Nasdaq composite index, which ended down 10 points, or 0.3 percent, at 4,308.

The U.S. government on Friday slashed its estimate for fourth-quarter growth as consumer spending and exports were less robust than initially thought, leaving the economy on a more sustainable path of modest expansion.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.4 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said on Friday. That was down sharply from the 3.2 percent pace reported last month and the 4.1 percent logged in the third quarter.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected growth would be cut to a 2.5 percent pace.

Despite the recent downturn in the economy, consumer confidence is holding steady. The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index ticked up to 81.6 in February from 81.2 in January.

The increase was small, but the harsh winter weather appears to have had little effect on Americans' confidence so far. That's a sign that spending might pick up in the coming months.

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