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Stocks Rise as Spending by Consumers Climbs

Stocks advanced Monday after a reported showed consumer spending ticked higher last month.

The Dow was up about 40 points at the opening bell, led by Bank of America, Intel and DuPont.

Personal income was unchanged in February, while spending rose 0.3 percent, pushing savings to its lowest level since October 2008.

"Households are starting to ease up on their tight grip on their wallets," an encouraging sign given that spending is key to the recovery, Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors wrote in an not to clients.

"The rise in consumption was not a result of any rebound in vehicle sales. Indeed, durable goods demand was down as the weather constrained trips to the showrooms. Instead, people are buying the little things that make them happy," Naroff explained.

Among the other buzz in the market this Monday, Greece launched a bond auction, its first since the EU-IMF bailout deal was reached last week. This seven-year auction was met with weaker demand than the 10-year auction a few weeks ago but still helped quell investors' worries about the nation's debt problems.

The dollar slippedagainst the euro, sending oil and gold higher.

Wall Street's major averages barely moved over the past few sessions, and more malaise is expected as investors await the week's big event — the February jobs report on Friday. The report is, unusually, being released on a market holiday.

Economists right now expect to see 107,000 jobs were added to nonfarm payrolls last month, according to the latest survey by Reuters.

The U.S. stock market is coming off its fourth consecutive week of gains, and is on track for a second straight monthly gain and a fourth consecutive quarterly gain as the end of the first quarter approaches.

Apple shares rose as the company reported strong demand for its iPad. The device hits store shelves on Saturday, and any customers who pre-ordered before March 27 will get them on Saturday, but the company delayed the promised delivery of any new pre-ordersby two weeks due to the strong demand. Now those units will ship on April 12.

In the auto sector, Ford finally completed the sale of its Volvo unit to China's Geely for nearly $2 billion.

Rival auto maker Toyota struck a deal to provide its hybrid technology to Mazda. And Chrysler is said to be accelerating the U.S. launch of its redesigned Chrysler 300 sedan as part of its turnaround plan that's being overseen by new owner Fiat.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has not yet signed off on the bankruptcy reorganization plan filed by Washington Mutual, according to the Wall Street Journal, which could affect the $1.4 billion dollar tax refund to JPMorgan Chase, which bought WaMu's banking subsidiary in 2008.

Investors had taken a little breather on Citigroup , after pushing the stock up nearly 40 percent in the past month and a half, but Rochdale analyst Dick Bove raised his rating on the stock to "buy." The analyst had recommended investors wait to buy the stock until the government undwound its stake in the firm but said turbulence surrounding such an unwinding is already priced in and now is the time to buy.

The Treasury is planning to sell its stake in Citi this year; Morgan Stanley won the competition to underwrite the government's sale.

And some Citi news from across the pond: The company is expanding its hedge-fund team, adding 13 new people in London and New York, the Financial Times reported.

Elsewhere, Boeing completed a crucial testing milestone for its long-delayed 787 Dreamliner.

And the board of mall-operator General Growth Properties meets Monday, reportedly to give final approval to a bankruptcy reorganization plan.

In deal news, Swedish telecom-equipment maker Ericsson said it has signed framework agreements worth $1.8 billion to provide network equipment for China Mobile and China Unicom.

Meanwhile, a Chinese court sentenced four former executives of Rio Tinto to 7 to 14 years in jail on bribery and theft charges.

This Week:

TUESDAY: Ford analyst meeting; Case-Shiller home-price index; consumer confidence
WEDNESDAY: Fed ends mortgage-buyback, TALF programs; weekly mortgage apps; ADP employment report; Chicago PMI; factory orders; weekly crude inventories; Fed's Lockhart speaks; Feinberg speaks; Earnings from Dollar General, Rite Aid, Research In Motion
THURSDAY: March auto sales; Challenger job-cuts report; weekly jobless claims; construction spending; ISM manufacturing index
FRIDAY: March jobs report; Stock market closed in observance of Good Friday; Bond market closes at noon

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.