According to Lipow Oil Associates, 18 percent of Japan's oil refinery capacity shut down.
Companies in Japan are starting to assess the damage of the earthquake and flooding. But,
Nissan reports there was damage at four of its plants while Toyota also stopped output at some of its plants.
Steel stocks gave a lift to the materials sector after news Steel Dynamics expected first quarter earnings to rise from a year ago. The steelmaker's board also approved a 33 percent boost to its quarterly dividend. Rival steel stocks gained, including AK Steel ,U.S. Steel , and Nucor .
As oil prices fell—but stayed at relatively high levels—energy stocks soared. Tesoro , Valero and Nabors shot higher.
In company news, Apple’s iPad2 goes on sale Friday, less than a year after the original iPad debut. The original iPad sold 300,000 units the first day, 500,000 the first week, and 1,000,000 in the first 28 days.
National Semiconductor rose along with other tech stocks despite a disappointing earnings report. But Aeropostale, which also delivered a disappointing report, fell.
Medtronic fell after the company said U.S. health regulators rejected a product it was developing to stimulate bone growth.
And AIG gained after news the insurer offered to buy back $15.7 billion in mortgage-backed securities the government took from the insurer during the financial crisis. AIG is paying for the securities with cash.
Among retail stocks, Ann Taylor soared after reporting strong fourth-quarter earnings.
Volume on the consolidated tape of the New York Stock Exchange was 3.7 billion shares, while 922 million changed hands on the NYSE floor.
Gold lost some of its luster this week, falling 0.47 percent to $1,421.50. The dollar, meanwhile, fell against a basket of currencies.
"By and large the stock market has acted pretty well given the increasing headwinds it's seen over the past few weeks," said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial Group. "Anytime the market is up 100 percent in the space of 24 months it’s certainty reasonable to see some profit taking, and that seems to be what we’ve experienced in recent sessions."
Sheldon added that he wouldn't be surprised to see the markets dip a few percentage points lower over the next few weeks, and said the direction of oil prices will continue to play a key role in the market's direction. But, he said, "if job creation continues to improve, that will be a very positive sign for the U.S. economy."
In U.S. economic news, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan reading on consumer sentiment fell to 68.2 in March, a five-month low,from a revised 77.5 in February.
Business inventories rose 0.9 percent in January, the highest level in two years, compared with a 1.1 percent gain in December, the Commerce Department reported. Business sales rose 2.0 percent in January, the fastest pace in nine months, compared with a 1.6 percent gain in December. Economists polled by Reuters had expected inventories to rise 0.7 percent.
Also retail sales rose 1.0 percent in February, up from 0.7 percent in January, the Commerce Department reported. The gain was the biggest since October, and in line with expectations of economists surveyed by Reuters.
In Europe, investors will turn their attention to a meeting of the leaders of the 17 countries that share the euro later on Friday. They will discuss the bloc’s response to violence in Libya as well as the debt crisis that has hit the region’s peripheral nations.
On Tap Next Week:
MONDAY: Microsoft releases new version of Internet Explorer, Chevron analyst meeting, and HP "summit."
TUESDAY: Credit card default rates, Empire state manufacturing survey, import & export prices, housing market index, and FOMC meeting announcement.
WEDNESDAY: Mortgage applications, housing starts, producer price index, current account, and oil inventories.
THURSDAY: Consumer price index, jobless claims, industrial production, leading indicators, Philadelphia Fed survey, natural gas inventories, money supply; before-the-bell earnings from FedEx and Lululemon; after-the-bell earnings from Nike.
FRIDAY: Quadruple witching; before-the-bell earnings from Allianz.