Stocks fell Friday but have best month since October 2011

Stocks fell Friday as the Nasdaq failed to hit the 5000 mark again, but markets still managed to post strong gains for the month. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 81.72 points, or 0.5%, to close at 18,132.70, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 6.24 points, or 0.3%, to 2104.50.GTY 459378734 A FIN MAX USA NY

The Nasdaq composite index dropped 24.36 points, or 0.5%, to 4963.53. The Nasdaq has topped 5000 at the closing bell on only two occasions — March 9 and 10, 2000. Its all-time closing high came on that second day, when it hit 5,048.62. Friday’s drop did little to dent gains for the month as the S&P 500 rose 5.5% in February. That was its best monthly performance since October 2011, when the index jumped 10.8%. The Dow gained 5.6% for the month and the Nasdaq surged 7.1%.

Crude oil rose but remains below $50 a barrel as benchmark U.S. crude gained $1.59 to $49.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2% from 2.03% late Thursday. Gross domestic product expanded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.2% in the three months ended Dec. 31, below the 2.6% first estimated. Economists expected a revision to 2% growth. For all of 2014, the economy grew 2.4%, up from 2.2% in 2013, after harsh winter weather early in the year caused the economy to shrink in the first quarter.

Greece’s bailout blues are increasingly at the back of investors’ minds — at least for a while — as Germany’s Parliament approved a four-month extension of a rescue plan targeting the country’s crushing debt. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE — which broke its 15-year-old previous closing high this week — ended down fractionally, dropping 0.04% to 6946.66. France’s CAC 40 closed up 0.8% to 4951.48 and Germany’s DAX ended 0.7% higher at 11,401.66. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.1% to 18,797.94, while the Hong Kong Hang Seng dropped 0.3% to 24,823.29.