NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow Jones Industrial Average were near session lows in Friday's afternoon session despite crude oil closing with its first monthly gain since June.
The S&P 500 was down 0.24%, the Dow fell 0.38%, and the Nasdaq declined 0.43%.
West Texas Intermediate crude rose more than 1% in February. The commodity jumped 2.7% to $49.49 a barrel on Friday. Prices were on the mend on Friday after China National Petroleum forecast the nation's demand to grow 3% in 2015, above the International Energy Agency's 2.5% estimate.
The U.S. dollar -- stable against a basket of other global currencies-- was also boosting oil. The euro was trading flat at $1.1196, the Aussie dollar was down just 0.05% against the greenback, and the Swiss franc was trading flat at $0.9525.
"As the Superman-strong US dollar runs into a wall of kryptonite, it falls back and propels crude prices higher," said Matt Smith, commodity analyst at Schneider Electric in a note.
The energy sector was the best performer on the S&P 500, though the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) - Get Report was down 0.42%. Among large-cap oilers, the best performers included PetroChina (PTR) - Get Report , Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) , BP (BP) - Get Report and Total (TOT) - Get Report .
After Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen addressed Congress earlier in the week, Dudley reiterated the central bank's commitment to patience while speaking at a monetary policy forum in New York on Friday.
"I believe that the risks of lifting the federal funds rate off of the zero lower bound a bit early are higher than the risks of lifting off a bit late," he said. "This argues for a more inertial approach to policy."
Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester struck a different tone, citing the risks associated with leaving rates lower for longer. "The public might believe that central bankers are holding rates low for longer because they have a gloomy outlook," she said in a speech at the same event. "This would not necessarily yield better economic outcomes."
Monster Beverage (MNST) - Get Report was the best performer on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 72 cents a share, 13 cents better than expected. Total revenue jumped 12% year over year and beat expectations. Shares were up 12.7%.
Faith in a J.C. Penney (JCP) - Get Report turnaround was shaken after the retailer reported a surprise fourth-quarter loss of 11 cents a share, compared to analysts' estimates of profit of 11 cents. Investments in revamping its department stores took a bite out of J.C. Penney's profitability. Shares were down 7%.
Bank of America (BAC) - Get Report shares were down 1.4% after the two members of its board as well as its chief accounting officer said they would be leaving the bank within weeks. Also pressuring shares, analysts at UBS cut their rating of the bank to "neutral" from "buy," noting that disclosures in recent annual filings have flagged potential failure of federal stress tests.
FedEx (FDX) - Get Report shares were up 1.5% on an upgrade from Credit Suisse to "neutral" from "outperform." Analysts increased price targets to $203, arguing higher growth at its U.S. Ground Network business would boost margins.
Pending home sales climbed 1.7% in January, slightly lower than a 2% consensus, but were at their highest level in 18 months and far better than a 3.7% drop a month earlier. By region, sales were flat in the Northeast, down 0.6% in the Midwest, up 3.2% in the South and up 2.2% in the West.
Consumer sentiment crept higher to 95.4 in February from a preliminary 93.6 reading, according to the University of Michigan's index. Though that beat estimates of 94, the index fell from an 11-year high of 98.1 in January, its first drop in seven months.
A second estimate of fourth-quarter GDP was trimmed to 2.2% from 2.6%, largely a result of a wider trade deficit and slower accumulation of business inventories than initially expected. Growth in consumer spending was also revised down by 0.1% to an increase of 4.2%, though remained at its fastest pace since early 2006. Economists had forecast a cut in GDP to as low as 2%.
"The usual suspects will claim that this slowdown in GDP growth signals some sort of underlying fragility in the US economy, perhaps triggered by the end of QE," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, in a note. "Ignore them. That's the same economy that added an average of 284,000 additional jobs in each of the final three months of last year. It's doing just fine and the Fed will start to hike rates in June."
--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.