Stocks ended the day significantly lower but avoided a catastrophe, as an orderly selloff staved off what some thought would be a massive market capitulation.
Indexes closed Friday off more than 3 percent, bad but far less than the calamity predicted before the opening bell.
"The money on the sidelines didn't get put to work today," Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext, said on CNBC. "I think everyone's going to catch their breath over the weekend and we'll reevaluate on Monday."
For all three major U.S. stock indexes, Friday's session marked their lowest closing levels since the spring of 2003. It was a painful week, with the Dow falling about 5.4 percent, the Nasdaq down 9.3 percent and the S&P 500 off 6.8 percent.
An anticipated washout never materialized on Friday. Stock futures hit limit lows before the opening bell after near-hysteria driven by a sharp drop in foreign stock indexes but it failed to carry over fully to Wall Street.
"When we saw what happened overseas last night, I think everybody got on the bandwagon and said, 'Here's the capitulation,' " Ned Riley, of Riley Asset Management, said on CNBC.
But no capitulation was in sight as stocks hit their lows for the day right after the opening bell.
Several components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average waded into positive ground after the bluechip index spent most of the day in red numbers. Microsoft and AT&T had the best day on the Dow.
Not everyone was happy that a washout never materialized. Analysts who thought a steeper decline in stocks would bring about a bottom were let down.
"The action this morning was somewhat disappointing," Cashin said earlier on CNBC. "There was no true sense of capitulation. Certainly what we saw in Asia and Europe indicated much heavier selling."
Massive losses also were tempered when existing home sales numbers came in better than expected.
In fact, there were even calls for investors to start getting back into stocks.
"Stocks are cheap and they're going to prove that over the next couple of weeks," Art Hogan, managing director at Jefferies, said on CNBC, where he already has called a market bottom. "We're having a fire sale on stocks right now, and it's time to get in and start buying them."
The damage was spread fairly evenly, with the financial and energy sectors leading the way.
Banks, Tech Leaders Take Biggest Hit
Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs were among the broker-banks posting big losses.