Stocks closed slightly higher Friday after fluctuating most of the session as some better-than-expected quarterly earnings helped offset anxiety over China's move overnight to curb inflation. Ireland made progress on a possible aid package with the European Union, but like the equity markets, the dollar, gold and oil were little changed by day's end.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) added 22 points, or 0.2%, to finish at 11,204. The blue chip index rebounded from an early selloff to just barely eke out gains for the week, breaking a slide going back to Nov. 5.
The broader S&P 500 ($INX) ticked up three points, or 0.3%, to close at 1,200, helped by strong quarterly results from Salesforce.com (CRM) and Nike (NKE), as well as Dell (DELL) after yesterday's close. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ($COMPX) rose 3.7 points, or 0.2%, to close at 2,518.
Stocks spent the first half of the session mostly in negative territory after China raised reserve requirements on banks for the second time in two weeks. The People's Bank of China has been moving aggressively to curb lending and cool down speculative bubbles and inflation, which is running at a two-year high.
Fears of a slowdown in demand from China has been the market's bogeyman all week, but after taking a 400-point round-trip on the Dow since Monday, traders turned their attention elsewhere Friday.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke struck back at critics at home and abroad, defending the central bank's ongoing purchase of $600 billion in Treasurys. The Fed chief also took aim at China, saying the country's policy of undervaluing currency threatened "balanced and sustainable" global growth.
Pressure on the euro eased after Ireland's government said it was making progress in talks with E.U. over a bailout package, but the dollar barely budged and so neither did stocks or commodities. The U.S. Dollar index, which measures the greenback against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, dropped 0.3%.
Oil for December delivery fell 25 cents to $81.60 a barrel on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange (CME). Gold for December delivery was essentially unchanged at $1,353 an ounce.