US Markets

Stocks end higher ahead of Fed meeting, Dow caps best week since Jan.

Stocks closed near session highs Friday, with the Dow posting its second best weekly gain this year, as investors looked ahead to next week's Federal Reserve policy meeting and shrugged off an earlier batch of tepid economic reports.

(Read more: Market is fat, bored and complacent as stocks approach record highs)

U.S. Major Index Performance

LastToday's % Change1 Week % ChangeMTD % ChangeYTD % Change
S&P 5001687.990.27%1.98%3.37%18.36%
Russell 20001053.980.52%2.37%4.26%24.09%
CBOE VIX14.16-0.91%-10.66%-16.75%-21.42%

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 75.42 points, to close at 15376.06, led by Intel.

The gained 4.57 points, to finish at 1,687.99. And the Nasdaq rose 6.22 points to end at 3,722.18.

All three major averages posted their second-straight week of gains. And so far for the month, all three averages are up more than 3 percent.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, finished unchanged near 14.

For the week, the Dow soared 3.04 percent, the S&P 500 rallied 3.37 percent, and the Nasdaq jumped 3.69 percent. Most Dow components finished in positive territory for the week, led by Disney and Microsoft, while Hewlett-Packard was the only blue-chip stock that closed in the red.

All 10 S&P sectors finished higher for the week, led by industrials and consumer discretionary.

Will they or won't they: Gross on tapering

On the economic front, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers' preliminary September consumer sentiment index fell to 76.8 from the final August figure of 82.1, according to the survey released on Friday. Economists in a Reuters survey expected a reading of 82.

Retail sales rose a meager 0.2 percent in August, according to the Commerce Department, suggesting that economic growth slowed in the third quarter. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a gain of 0.4 percent following an increase of 0.4 percent in July.

And producer prices rose 0.3 percent in August as energy costs rebounded, according to the Labor Department. Economist surveyed by Reuters expected a gain of 0.2 percent.

Business inventories gained 0.4 percent in July, posting their largest increase in six months, according to the Commerce Department. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected an increase of 0.2 percent.

The slew of economic data came ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy-setting meeting next week. The central bank currently purchases $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bonds in its effort to stimulate the economy. The latest Reuters poll showed economists at a majority of U.S. primary dealers expect the Fed to announce it will cut its bond purchases by $10 billion.

(Read more: Fed chair picklikely in a few weeks, not next week)

"The numbers were a bit softer than expected but I hope investors aren't thinking that the Fed isn't going to taper because they are dead set on at least starting it," said Randy Warren, CIO at Warren Financial Service. "[A reduction of about] $10 billion seems reasonable and the market seems to have priced it in at this point."

Dow up 3% this week

Verizon was upgraded to "overweight" by Evercore Partners on the heels of its purchase of Vodafone's 45-percent stake in Verizon Wireless. According to Dow Jones, BlackRock and Pimco bought at least a quarter of Verizon's record $49 billion bond offering that it will use to refinance the acquisition. Pimco is said to have bought $8 billion, while BlackRock bought about $5 billion.

Intel was upgraded to "buy" from "hold" at Jefferies, which also raised its price target for the chipmaker to $30 from $27 per share. Shares rallied more than 3 percent to lead the Dow gainers.

Apple dipped after Jefferies cut its price target on the tech giant to $425 from $450.

And late Thursday, Twitter disclosed it had filed for an initial public offering (IPO). Goldman Sachs is the social media messaging site's lead underwriter, sources told CNBC.

(Read more: Twitter spices up market day, before retail sales)

Still, worries over Syria lingered as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov continued talks on disarming Syria's chemical weapons program. After Thursday's meeting, Kerry said pledges of Syria's regime to give up its chemical arms were "simply not enough."

—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter:@JeeYeonParkCNBC)

Coming Up Next Week:

MONDAY: Empire state mfg survey, industrial production
TUESDAY: CPI, Treasury int'l capital, housing market index, FOMC mtg begins; Earnings from Adobe Systems
WEDNESDAY: Mortgage applications, housing starts, oil inventories, FOMC mtg announcemnet, FOMC forecasts, Bernanke press conference, Apple iOS 7 available; Earnings from FedEx, General Mills, Oracle
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, current account, existing home sales, Philadelphia Fed survey, leading indicators, natural gas inventories, Fed's Pianalto speaks, Fed balance sheet/money supply, Microsoft analyst mtg, Nike shareholder mtg, weekly rail numbers; Earnings from ConAgra, Rite Aid
FRIDAY: Fed's George speaks, Fed's Bullard speaks, Fed's Kocherlakota speaks, quadruple witching, new iPhones in stores

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