Traders pulled the plug on the market this week as geopolitical hot spots flared, and the weekend brings uncertainty. The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah intensified Friday, but investors could just as easily fret about attacks on oil pipelines in Nigeria, possible sanctions against Iran and the upcoming G8 summit in Russia. On the domestic economic front, Friday brought a weaker-than-expected 0.1% decline in retail sales for the month of June. Even though the economy is still considered strong, it's looking less so against the backdrop of such global strife. After breaking through important technical barriers Wednesday and Thursday and sliding early Friday, the major averages attempted a minor rally late Friday but still ended near their June 13 lows. The worst performer of the week was the Nasdaq Composite, which sank to its lowest level since October. The Comp closed down 0.82% on the day and 4.3% on the week to 2037.35, which is 1.6% below its June low of 2072.47. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 1% Friday and 3.1% on the week to close at 10.739.35, just 0.3% above its June 13 low of 10,706.14. The S&P 500 declined 0.5% Friday and 2.3% on the week, closing at 1236.19 or 1% over of its June 13 low of 1223.69. Crude oil surged to reach new highs this week, closing at $77.03 Friday to bring its four-day climb to 4.6%. The price of oil and the political turmoil sparked a flight-to-quality rally in assets such as gold, which closed up 5.4% for the week after gaining $13.60 to $669 per ounce Friday. Mining stocks participated in the rally, as stocks like Newmont Mining ( NEM) climbed 1.57% Friday but up only 0.9% on the week. Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold ( FCX) gained 2.29% in Friday's market but still fell 3% for the week.
Investors seeking relative safety also bought Treasury bonds and the U.S. dollar, which also benefited from the Bank of Japan's dovish signals that accompanied its first rate hike in six years. The dollar gained 0.68% vs. the yen to 116.08 Friday, while the euro fell 0.33% to $1.2648. Investors who didn't move their investments into cash rotated into defensive sectors such as consumer staples. Kellogg ( K) gained 1.1% on the week to close at $48.07. Pepsi Bottling Group ( PBG) reported strong earnings early in the week, and although its shares were down 1.45% Friday, Pepsi stock gained 3.2% on the week.