Stocks surge in third quarter

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Stock markets worldwide roared back in the third quarter, recovering from deep spring losses as the feared “double-dip” recession remained a no-show.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 47.23 points to 10,788.05 on Thursday but was up 10.4% for the three months, the blue-chip index’s best quarter since the third period of 2009. The Dow is now up 3.4% since Jan. 1.

Equities also surged overseas, and U.S. investors’ returns in many foreign markets beat the Dow, thanks to a slide in the dollar’s value against other currencies.

Overall, it was far harder to lose money in financial markets than to make it in the quarter: Broad indexes of stocks, bonds and commodities all posted positive returns. Most also are now in the black for the year.

Still, markets face enormous uncertainty as the fourth quarter begins, with midterm elections looming, tax cuts set to expire Dec. 31, and Europe’s debt crisis threatening to worsen again.

Many investors remain cautious, and that is reflected in record prices for gold, the classic refuge in uncertain times. The metal rose 5% in the quarter, the eighth straight quarterly gain, and this week closed above $1,300 an ounce for the first time.

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