Stocks End a Volatile Day Mostly Lower, Thanks to Global Jitters

Stocks closed mostly lower Friday after China moved to curb lending for the second time in a month and disappointing data out of Europe raised the specter of a double-dip recession in the eurozone.The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) lost 45 points, or 0.4% to 10,099, while the broader S&P 500 ($INX) slipped 3 points, or 0.3%, to 1,076. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ($COMPX) added 6 points, or 0.3%, to 2,184, helped by Motorola (MOT), which rallied on news the company will split into two independent companies.

The major averages pared steep early losses -- the Dow lost as much as 160 points at one point early in the session -- and managed to post gains for the week, snapping a string of four losing weeks in a row.

It Started in China

"The saying 'stocks fluctuate' appears to be at risk of being overused as we proceed near term," John Stoltzfus, market strategist at Ticonderoga Securities, told clients Friday, noting the host of market-moving news to hit global equities over the last two days.

"Talk versus resolution on Greece yesterday, further hikes in reserve requirements for Chinese banks and disappointing [fourth-quarter] growth in Europe today along with news yesterday of heightened risk to U.S. regional banks...haven't sent markets plunging, but rather trading mixed globally," Stoltzfus wrote.

The selling pressure began overnight after China ordered banks to set aside more deposits as reserves because loan growth and real estate property prices continue to surge in the world's fastest-growing economy.

Gold and Oil Fall

Adding to the jitters, gross domestic product in the eurozone grew by only 0.1% in the last three months of 2009 with Germany, it's largest exporter and biggest economy, showing zero growth. Expectations had been for a 0.4% increase, which started speculation that the eurozone may be headed for a double-dip recession.

The US Dollar Index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, rose 0.5% to 80.36. That hurt prices of commodities denominated in dollars. Gold fell $2.60 to $1,092 an ounce, while oil dropped $1.22 to settle at $74.06 a barrel.

With Monday's Presidents' Day holiday in the U.S., the domestic markets will have one more day of respite before "stocks flucuate" again.
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