March 17, 2012 in Business

Mixed day caps electrifying week

Christina Rexrode Associated Press
 

NEW YORK – It was a mundane end to an electrifying week on the stock market.

Stock indexes wavered indecisively between small gains and losses Friday before closing mixed. Earlier in the week, the Standard & Poor’s 500 and the Nasdaq composite index were on a tear, hitting levels that hadn’t been reached in years.

On Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq both ended the day down. The Dow fell 20.14 points to 13,232.62. The Nasdaq fell 1.11 points to 3,055.26. The broader S&P 500 index edged up 1.57 points to 1,404.17.

Despite Friday’s losses, the three major indexes were all still up more than 2 percent for the week. The Dow had its first down day after seven straight gains, ending its longest winning streak since February 2011.

Investors were weighing competing reports about the health of the U.S. economy. A key measure of consumer sentiment came in lower than expected, and high gas prices continued to weigh down hopes about a recovery. On the plus side, prices for other goods, including food, stabilized.

Telly Zachariades, a partner at The Valence Group investment bank, said the market appears to be on the upswing, even if it’s marred by a few off days. “It’s almost like today was a spring training game that ended up getting rained out,” he said.

Others think the market’s rise earlier this week only masks underlying problems in the economy’s fundamentals, like uncertainty over oil prices and tax policies and the country’s burgeoning deficit.

“The market is giving us a free pass on our unsustainable fiscal positions through the presidential election,” said Barry Knapp, head of equity strategies at Barclays Capital. “But in 2013, we’re going to have to deal with this.”

“What we’ve seen today,” Knapp added, “is a little bit of a warning sign.”

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