Stocks pared early gains to briefly trade negative on Friday after data showed consumer sentiment fell in March.

Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers' preliminary March consumer sentiment index fell to 74.3 from 75.3 in February, according to a report released on Friday. Economists in a Reuters survey expected a preliminary March sentiment index reading of 76.0.

Stocks had opened higher after data showed inflation remained in check last month as the domestic economy continues to improve.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 3.37 points, or 0.03 percent, at 13,249.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 0.46 points, or 0.03 percent, at 1,402.14. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 5.55 points, or 0.18 percent, at 3,050.82.

(Reporting By Angela Moon; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)