Bernard Condon

NEW YORK: It took awhile, but the Dow Jones industrial average finally gained back all its losses for the month.

On a day of conflicting signals, as investors weighed disappointing economic news against reports of higher profits at big companies, stocks inched higher.

All three major indexes were up Friday, though barely.

The Dow climbed 24.69 points to 13,228.31, a tiny 0.2 percent gain. That was enough to push the index into the black for April. Itís now 16 points higher than where it began the month.

The Standard & Poorís 500 index edged up 3.38 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,403.36. The Nasdaq composite rose 18.59 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,069.20.

Amazon jumped 16 percent after the online retailer reported a big increase in shipments. Online travel agency Expedia Inc. surged 26 percent on higher profits from its hotel-booking business.

Companies in the S&P 500 are now on track to report a 6 percent rise in earnings for the first three months of 2012 compared with a year ago, according to FactSet, a financial data provider. Last month, Wall Street analysts had expected earnings this quarter to be flat.

The stock gains Friday came despite a government report earlier in the day that the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent, below the 2.5 percent that economists had expected. It grew at a faster rate, 3 percent, in the final three months of 2011.

David Rosenberg, chief economist at money manager Gluskin Sheff, said investors might have bid up stocks on the weaker report because they now think the Federal Reserve is more likely to embark on another round of bond buying to stimulate the economy.

ď[Fed Chairman] Ben Bernanke has created the impression that if the economy stumbles, heíll be there to hold your hand,Ē Rosenberg said.

European stock markets also rose as investors shrugged off a second downgrade this year by S&P of Spainís debt. Spain also reported its unemployment rate rose to nearly 25 percent, its highest in 18 years.

Spainís IBEX rose 1.7 percent, Franceís CAC-40 1.1 percent and Germanyís DAX 0.9 percent.

However the yields on Spanish and Italian government bonds rose, a sign that investors are still uneasy about the ability of those countries to service their debt.

The yield on Spainís benchmark 10-year bond rose 0.08 percentage point to 5.87 percent. Italyís 10-year yield rose 0.11 point to 5.64 percent.

The Dow hit its high for the year on April 2. It fell fast soon after, then bounced around. With Fridayís gain, the index is now just 36 points away from that level.