NEW YORK (
) -- Stocks finished Friday on a high note, snapping a week-long losing streak, as stabilizing oil prices eased concerns that the economic recovery could be derailed.
A strong read on consumer sentiment also helped push stocks higher.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
gained 62 points, or 0.5%, at 12,130. The
was higher by 14 points, or 1.1% to close at 1320, and the
surged ahead by 43 points, or 1.6%, at 2781.
The gains on Friday, however, could not completely erase the losses suffered over a volatile trading week. The bluechip index finished the week lower by 2.1%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq lost 1.7% and 1.8% respectively. That is the worst weekly performance since November 2010.
Concerns that unrest in Libya would spread to other oil producing nations sent oil prices to over $100 a barrel mid-week, leading the Dow to drop for three straight days before reversing direction on Friday.
Oil, however, retreated below $100 a barrel and was relatively stable Friday after the
International Energy Agency said it would release excess oil inventory if the conflict in Libya hurts supplies. President Barack Obama said the United States would be able to withstand any supply disruptions.
Reports that Saudi Arabia was working on compensating for the shortfall in Libyan oil production also eased concerns about an oil shock. Crude oil for April delivery rose 60 cents to settle at $97.88 a barrel.
led the Dow higher Friday, gaining 2.1% to close at $72.30, after the company
unexpectedly won a $35 billion contract to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force late Thursday.
also gave the Dow a boost, rising nearly 3%. Citigroup analysts said they expect PC demand to rebound in the March/April timeframe. That helped drive chip stocks higher, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index up 2.6%.
Banking and material stocks also outperformed, with
among the top gainers on the Dow.
Johnson & Johnson
were the biggest losers among the bluechips.
The U.S. economy grew by 2.8% in the fourth quarter, according to the Labor Department's second estimate. The fourth-quarter expansion was downwardly revised from the government's initial estimate for growth of 3.2%, and well below the increase of 3.3% that economists had been expecting, according to Briefing.com. U.S. gross domestic product grew 2.6% in 2010's third quarter.
Paul Ballew, economist at Nationwide Insurance, said the latest estimates confirmed that the recovery will be slow. "The recovery has a lot of weight on its back. It will be gradual and choppy," said Ballew who expects the economy to grow at 3% to 3.2% in 2011. He said imbalances that triggered the recession would take a long time to correct. "We are still seeing a drag from housing. The residential sector typically contributes 10% to 12% of GDP. We are getting no contribution from that sector."
Markets, however, welcomed a more positive reading on consumer sentiment. The Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 77.5 in February, its highest level in over three years. Economists were expecting the reading to remain unchanged at 75.1.
Trading activity was lighter as volatility dropped, with 924 million shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange mid-day. Volumes on the Nasdaq stood at about 1.8 billion. Breadth was very positive, with 80% of the stocks traded on the big board finishing higher, while 18% declined.
swung to a profit in the fourth-quarter late Thursday, reporting a quarterly profit of $16.60 a share, compared with a loss of $65.51 a share in the same period last year. The gains, however, came largely from the sale of its overseas unit, with its core insurance business turning a weaker performance. Shares shed 4.7% to $38.40.
hiked its full-year sales outlook after exceeding Wall Street's expectations with adjusted earnings of 31 cents a share on sales of $457 million. The stock added 3.4% to $138.83.
was the biggest gainer on the S&P after it said it would buy back $300 million worth of its shares. The stock rose 8.2% to close at $12.57.
shed 5.4% to $155.72 after it beat expectations on the bottomline with an EPS of $1.80 but missed revenue expectations. It also
narrowed its revenue outlook for 2011 to between $3.7 billion and $3.8 billion.
reported a 36% increase in fourth-quarter profits to $1.13 per share. Adjusted for one-time items, the company reported earnings of $1.23 per share, beating the average analysts' estimate for a profit of $1.08 per share. The retailer's outlook disappointed however as it forecast earnings of 18 to 23 cents a share for its first quarter, below Wall Street's consensus view of 31 cents per share. The stock plunged 6.5% at $34.61.
decided to end production of its hit television show "Two and a Half Men" after actor Charlie Sheen made violence-tinged and anti-semitic remarks in a radio interview. The stock , however, finished higher by 6.8% to $23.54, a 52-week high, as analysts expressed confidence in the ability of CBS to generate more hit shows.
were other notable gainers within the S&P 500.
Elsewhere in commodity markets, the April gold contract shed $6.50 to settle at $1,409.30 an ounce.
The benchmark 10-year Treasury rose 9/32, diluting the yield to 3.416%. The dollar strengthened against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index up by 0.2%.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 1.8% and Japan's Nikkei added 0.7%. European markets finished stronger, with London's FTSE gaining 1.4% and the DAX in Frankfurt finishing ahead by 0.8%.
--Written by Melinda Peer and Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.