Stocks end big quarter on quiet note

New York

U.S. stocks ended back where they started Friday as the stock market wrapped up its best quarter in almost five years.

Health care companies did better than any part of the market during the third quarter and continued to rise Friday, while technology companies rose as chipmakers also traded higher.

Global banks fell and European stocks skidded after Italy’s new government announced a big increase in spending. Italy’s main stock index fell almost 4 percent as investors worried the government’s plan will lead to a clash with European Union leaders who want Italy to reduce its debt.

Through the third quarter, pain in other markets led to gains for U.S. stocks, and that was true again Friday. The S&P 500 rose 7.2 percent, its biggest increase since the end of 2013.

The S&P 500 index inched down 0.02 points to 2,913.98. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 18.38 points, or 0.1 percent, to 26,458.31. The Nasdaq composite added 4.38 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 8,046.35. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 6.04 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,696.57.

Italian bank UniCredit sank 6.7 percent to $12.96. In the U.S., Goldman Sachs shed 1.5 percent to $224.24.

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