A tough week on the stock market ended quietly Friday.
Major indexes notched modest gains, not nearly enough to make up for the four previous days of losses. It wound up being the second-worst week for the market this year.
The Dow Jones industrial average remains down slightly for 2015, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index is essentially flat.
There was no one major catalyst to move the market one way or another Friday. Biotechnology stocks, battered over the last week, were among the top gainers, while energy stocks lagged as the price of oil fell.
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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 34.43 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,712.66. The S&P 500 rose 4.87 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,061.02, and the Nasdaq composite rose 27.86 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,891.22.
Stocks fell most of the week under a combination of weaker-than-expected economic data and concerns that the rapid rise of the dollar may crimp U.S. corporate earnings. Companies start releasing their first-quarter results next month.
The biggest sell-off came on Wednesday, when a report showed orders at U.S. factories for long-lasting manufactured goods fell in February, the latest disappointing result suggesting the U.S. economy has hit a soft patch. The Dow plunged nearly 300 points that day.
The question is whether the U.S. economy is really slowing down or whether the numbers stem from nasty winter weather. In addition to first-quarter earnings reports, investors will also be watching the Labor Department’s monthly job markets survey, due out April 3, for insight into how the economy is doing.
“I’m trying to be as forward-looking as possible here. Clearly the weather had some sort of impact this quarter, but I still believe U.S. economic growth is strong,” said Scott Wren, a global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors.
The turmoil in Yemen has caused heightened volatility in oil markets this week as well. The tensions have erupted into a regional conflict, with Saudi Arabia and its allies bombing Shiite rebels allied with Iran, while Egyptian officials said a ground assault will follow the airstrikes. Iran denounced the Saudi-led air campaign, calling it “a dangerous step.”
While the price of U.S. crude fell sharply Friday, it still finished much higher for the week, up more than 10 percent. It was the biggest weekly gain for oil since March 2009.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell 5 percent, or $2.56, and closed at $48.87 a barrel in New York. U.S. crude finished last week at $45.72. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 7 cents and closed at $56.41 in London.
In other futures trading on the NYMEX:
– Wholesale gasoline fell 8.4 cents to $1.798 a gallon.
– Heating oil fell 5.8 cents to $1.728 a gallon.
– Natural gas fell 8.2 cents to $2.590 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Prices for U.S. government bonds rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.96 percent from 1.99 percent late Thursday.
In the metals market, gold fell $5 to $1,299.80 an ounce, silver fell 7 cents to $17.07 an ounce and copper fell 4 cents to $2.77 an ounce.
4th quarter growth estimate steady
The U.S. economy grew at a 2.2 percent rate in the last quarter of 2014, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Friday in its final revision for that quarter. That was unchanged from an earlier estimate released in late February.
The economy’s performance in October, November and December 2014 was well below the 5 percent pace of growth in the third quarter and the 4.6 percent rate in the second quarter, but its 2.2 percent pace could top growth in the current quarter, which will end Tuesday.
The New York Times