U.S. stocks closed lower on Friday, as a week of mixed economic data, renewed dollar strength and sharply lower oil prices made traders cautious ahead of next week's Fed meeting.
"I think the fear is the Fed is going to raise rates... to preserve their reputation," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management. "That's part of the reason why we're seeing a very strong dollar, weakness in oil and metals."
The Federal Open Market Committee meets next week, with all eyes on whether or not "patient" remains in the statement. Quarterly options also expire.
"We're looking at a choppy market. Many traders are not going to put in many trades before next week's major events," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. "There's no question that the chances of the Fed statement being altered have risen, certainly to about 50 percent. But there are other factors that (indicate) the Fed is not going to change it's language."
The U.S. dollar rose more than half a percent to a new 52-week high, for its first close above 100 since April 2003. The euro extended losses to fall below $1.05.
"I think the market is trading off the dollar. Obviously the dollar strength is pressuring stocks," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.
Crude oil futures settled down $2.21, or 4.70 percent, to $44.84 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold futures settled up 50 cents to $1,152.40 an ounce, briefly turning negative amid its the worst losing streak since 1973.
The Dow fell more than 250 points before recovering to close 145 points lower. The major indices declined, with nearly all blue chips lower and all S&P 500 sectors in the red. The Dow and S&P 500 posted their third week of declines, while the Nasdaq closed lower for the second straight week.
"I think it's down because the mixed economic messages we're getting is making the Fed move messy," said Tim Dreiling, senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
"When the data is mixed and the data is messy, that injects the fundamental uncertainty," he said.
Friday's economic data added to the mixed growth picture, but most analysts attributed weakness to seasonality.
The U.S. Producer Price index for February showed a decline of 0.5 percent, missing estimates of a 0.3 percent gain.
Consumer sentiment data showed a preliminary read of 91.2 in March versus 95.4 in February.
"All (consumer data) are impacted by weather," said Maris Ogg, president of Tower Bridge Advisors. "I think the spring will bring spending and retail sales will" pick up.
Since the release of February's jobs report last Friday, stocks have fluctuated with changing perceptions of an interest rate hike and strengthening in the dollar.
"Today's PPI shows that inflation is not the problem. I suggest that fixation (on the Fed) has caused this market to act in a very volatile manner and preparing itself for declines. Not a fundamental issue," Cardillo said.