NEW YORK – One of the wildest streaks in Wall Street history came to a tame close Friday with blue-chip stocks not far from where they were when the week began.
After four consecutive days of 400-point swings, the Dow Jones industrial average rose a relatively modest 125 points Friday to bring the blue-chip average only 1.5 percent lower for the week. At one point this week, the Dow was down a dizzying 7.3 percent.
The subdued trading was a relief for investors who have been buffeted by a stream of bad news in recent weeks. Stocks have been swinging all week as investors reacted to an unprecedented downgrade in U.S. debt, fears about a double-dip recession and worries about European banks.
“It appears as though we’ve come out of this week almost whole,” said Bernie McGinn, founder of McGinn Investment Management. “On Wednesday afternoon, no one would have suspected that.”
Friday’s rise came after the government announced that retail spending, one of the main drivers of the economy, rose last month at the fastest pace since April.
The promising figures, coming a day after a better than expected report on unemployment, were enough to beat back some of the fears that a new recession is on its way, though most market experts were exercising extreme caution in drawing conclusions from a few data points.
“The numbers were encouraging, but they were far from conclusive,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief economist at MF Global.
The Dow ended the day up 125.71 points, or 1.1 percent, to 11,269.02. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed up 6.17 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,178.81.
The calm Friday was a far cry from the mood Monday, when the Dow plummeted 634 points on the first day of trading after Standard & Poor’s bumped the U.S. down from its AAA rating.
European markets rallied Friday after regulators in France, Spain, Italy and Belgium introduced temporary measures to halt short-selling of certain financial stocks.
France’s leading stock index ended the day up 4 percent.
When the United States and Britain instituted similar measures during the 2008 financial crisis, it gave bank stocks a short-term boost, but was ultimately unsuccessful in protecting bank stocks from big declines.
Some market experts say the stock surge of the past few days could be sustained if more promising economic data come in next week, when data about the housing industry are released Tuesday and unemployment statistics are reported Thursday.
Even some market experts who see tough times ahead believe the stock market is due for a short-term rebound after the panicked selling earlier this week.
“The selling fed on itself,” said Phil Roth, a market analyst at Miller Tabak & Co. “When that kind of selling is done, you can get a recovery regardless of the fundamental background.”