A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to a Sell-Off

As improbable as it seemed before the opening bell, the major averages didn't crater Friday, as some more solid corporate earnings and a dovish reading on inflation helped offset a surprise policy change by the Federal Reserve.

By all indications, U.S. equities should have closed the week with a pounding. After all, the Fed popped off quite the surprise late Thursday when it raised the rate it charges on short-term loans to banks (called the discount rate). Naturally, the speculators responded immediately, scurrying away from stock-index futures and overseas equities like cockroaches caught in the light.