Best January for stocks since 1997

Associated Press
In this Jan. 30, 2012 photo, specialists Mark Otto, left, and Christopher Malloy work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Markets clawed back lost ground Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, on hopes that Greece is heading toward a conclusion of debt-reduction talks with private creditors and that it may secure its second bailout package this week. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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In this Jan. 30, 2012 photo, specialists Mark Otto, left, and Christopher Malloy work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Markets clawed back lost ground Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, on hopes that Greece is heading toward a conclusion of debt-reduction talks with private creditors and that it may secure its second bailout package this week. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK (AP) — It's the best start for stocks in 15 years.

The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 each finished with their biggest January gains since 1997. Stocks jumped on the first trading day of the year and made a slow climb from there.

There was a dip at the end, though. The Dow fell 21 points on Tuesday to close at 12,632. Traders were discouraged by unexpectedly weak consumer confidence figures. The S&P closed down a fraction of a point, and the Nasdaq gained two.

Advancers and decliners were about even on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was a little higher than average lately at 4.1 billion shares.

The S&P ended the month up 4.4 percent.

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