updated 3/30/2010 6:35:13 PM ET 2010-03-30T22:35:13

The stock market moved closer to closing out another strong quarter with a modest advance Tuesday.

Major Market Indices

The Dow Jones industrial average added 12 points for its fourth straight gain following a rise in technology stocks. Apple and Verizon jumped after The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was making phones that could be used on Verizon's network.

With one day left in the January-March quarter, the Dow has gained 4.6 percent for the period. The index is on track for its best first-quarter performance since 1999.

Stocks have now had a nearly unbroken advance since early March of last year. The Dow made an even larger leap of 7.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

The mood in the market was upbeat Tuesday after a report that consumer confidence grew more than expected in March. A separate report showed home prices inched higher for the eighth consecutive month.

Analysts expect trading to be erratic Wednesday because of the end of the quarter. Money managers often engage in what's known as window dressing, or trades intended to boost returns on reports sent to shareholders. Many investors refrain from big moves. Tuesday's volume was light as many traders took the day off for Passover or ahead of Easter.

A steady climb in stocks over the past two months could give investors reasons to collect some profits. The Dow has risen 19 of the past 23 days and is now at its highest level since September 2008.

"A bout of profit-taking would be normal and expected after the rise we had," said Mitch Schlesinger, managing director of FBB Capital Partners in Bethesda, Md.

The day's economic reports provided new evidence that the economy is improving, albeit slowly.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said its consumer confidence index rose to 52.5 in March, from 46.4 last month. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast it would rise to 50. A reading above 90 means the economy is on solid footing. Analysts hope that increased confidence will lead consumers to spend more.

"We're starting to see consumers come back in an adequate manner," said Larry Rosenthal, president of Financial Planning Services in Manassas, Va. "Not strong, but adequate."

The Dow rose 11.56, or 0.1 percent, to 10,907.42. The Dow was up as much as 44 points in morning trading.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.05, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,173.27, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 6.33, or 0.3 percent, to 2,410.69.

Advancing stocks narrowly outpaced those that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 4.1 billion shares compared with 4.4 billion Monday.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index, which measures home values in 20 major metropolitan markets, rose 0.3 percent in January compared with the previous month. It was the eighth consecutive monthly gain.

The index was down 0.7 percent compared with the year-ago period. That was slightly better than the drop forecast by economists.

Investors have been tolerant of uneven housing reports and are instead focused on jobs. Analysts say stocks won't be able to push higher without an improvement in the job market.

The Labor Department releases its monthly employment report Friday. Economists expect it to show employers added 190,000 jobs in March. That would be only the second increase since the recession began in late 2007. Some of the growth is expected to be tied to temporary government hiring for the 2010 census. The stock market will be closed for Good Friday when the report arrives.

Investors will get another snapshot of jobs on Wednesday from payroll company ADP. Economists forecast the ADP report will show private-sector employers added 40,000 jobs in March.

Apple Inc. rose $3.46, or 1.5 percent, to $235.85. The stock reached a record of $237.48 during trading. Verizon Communications Inc. rose 78 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $31.23.

Apple's iPhone has been available only to subscribers of AT&T Inc. in the U.S. AT&T fell 56 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $25.95.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.86 percent from 3.87 percent late Monday.

The dollar rose against most other major currencies. Gold fell.

Crude oil rose 20 cents to $82.37 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 1.69, or 0.3 percent, to 683.94.

Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.7 percent, Germany's DAX index dipped 0.2 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.3 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 1 percent.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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