Stocks snapped a two-week losing streak to post gains after several days of quiet trading in which stocks steadily rose higher despite despite unrest in the Middle East and Libya, debt troubles in Europe, a continuing nuclear disaster in Japan and mixed economic news in the U.S.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 50.03 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 12,220.59. For the week, the Dow gained 362.07 points or 3.05 percent. The blue-chip index remains down for the month, by 0.5 percent.
IBM was the best Dow performer for the week, rising more than 4 percent, while Bank of America was the worst performer on both the Dow and S&P 500 Index, falling nearly 5 percent.
The S&P 500 gained 4.14 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 1,313.80. For the week, the S&P 500 rose 34.59 points or 2.7 percent.
Apple was the best performer on the S&P 500, rising more than 6.25 percent.
The Nasdaq gained 6.64 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 2,743.06. For the week, the Nasdaq rose 99.39 points this week, or 3.8 percent, to close at 2,743.06.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell below 18. For the past seven days, the VIX fell 39.1 percent. The last time the VIX posted a similar decline was on Nov. 4, 2008, when it fell 39.7 percent, according to Reuters.
Among key S&P sectors, energy, telecom and materials advanced Friday.
The market keeps moving slowly higher in the face of global geopolitical and economic worries, and mixed economic news in the U.S. , including a drop in The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment indexand Thursday's weak durable goods orders.
"As an investor, you kind of don’t have to do anything at this point, you’re still riding this wave up," said Jonathan Corpina, managing director, Meridian Equity Partners.
But volume has been extremely light, Corpina noted, which leads to higher volatility. Only 825 million shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange floor, while 3.4 billion shares changed hands on the consolidated tape of the NYSE.
Next week could be a different story as investors receive key economic news, ranging from auto sales to the March jobs picture ahead of the quarter end on March 31, a time when portfolio managers typically engage in "window dressing" their portfolios to improve quarterly returns. Add to this mix unexpected headlines out of Europe, Japan or the Middle East, and traders could be busy.
"If it’s resilient as everyone thinks it is, we’ll get the reaction that they’ve been right, that this market is resilient," says Corpina, who expects the market will continue to shake off any bad news and keep moving higher.
Oil prices traded flat despite planned protests in Bahrain and news thatSyrian troops fired on protesters, and as a military campaign continued against Libya.U.S. light sweet crude, fell to below $106 a barrel, while London Brent crude rose above $115 a barrel.
The higher prices could weigh on stocks amid fears they will dent the economic recovery, although rising prices haven't been a big factor in the markets in recent days.