S&P Ekes Out Fourth-Straight Weekly Gain, But Dow Snaps its Winning Streak

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The broad S&P 500 ended in the green for the fourth week in a row, but the Dow's weak showing on Friday left the blue-chip average in the loss column for the first time in so many weeks.

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Today's Markets 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 74.2 points, or 0.58%, to 12660, the S&P 500 dipped 2.1 points, or 0.16%, to 1316 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 11.3 points, or 0.4%, to 2817.

For the week, the Dow fell 0.45%, the S&P 500 inched 0.08% higher and the Nasdaq rallied 1.1%. Market participants had a slew of economic data, corporate developments and headlines out of Europe to parse through on the day.

The U.S. economy expanded at an annualized pace of 2.8% in the fourth quarter of 2011, a quicker rate than the 1.8% in the third quarter, the Commerce Department reported in its first reading on Friday. The jump was the biggest since the second quarter of 2010. However, economists were expecting the economy to expand at 3% for the quarter.

Market participants will be looking to see how the economy is faring from headwinds caused by Europe's debt crisis, which has substantially slowed growth on the continent, a significant trading partner.

The Federal Reserve said earlier in the week it expects the economy to continue growing at a moderate pace, but does face risks from Europe. As a result, the central bank said it plans on keeping interest rates a exceptionally low levels until 2014.

Meanwhile, consumer sentiment climbed to the highest level since February 2011 in late January. The final reading of the Reuters/University of Michigan gauge hit 75 from a preliminary reading of 74. Economists were expecting the index to hit 74.1 for the month.

Earnings season kicked into high gear this week, with two blue-chip companies reporting on Friday.

Chevron (NYSE:CVX) posted profit and revenue that fell well short of expectations. The company's shares were down more than 2%, detracting 17 points from the Dow. Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) posted a fiscal second-quarter core profit of $1.10 per share on sales of $22.14 billion. Wall Street forecast the consumer products company to earn $1.08 on $22.19 billion. The company’s full-year view came in short of expectations.

Elsewhere, Ford Motor (NYSE:F) unveiled a fourth-quarter operating profit of 20 cents per share, falling short of analysts’ expectations of 25 cents. The automaker posted revenue of $34.6 billion, topping estimates of $32.09 billion.

Negotiations between Greece and its private creditors continued for another day on Friday and appeared poised to drag into the weekend.

"Important understandings were reached on legal and technical issues," the Institute of International Finance, a group that represents the bondholders, said in an e-mailed statement. The IIF also said Charles Dallara and Jean Lemi, who are leading the talks, met with Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, his deputy and the country's finance chief. Indeed, Papademos told Reuters he was optimistic that a deal will be struck in coming days.

The euro climbed 0.26% to $1.3143, while the U.S. dollar fell 0.27% against a basket of six world currencies.

Commodities markets were mixed. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York fell 14 cents, or 0.14%, to $99.56 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline surged 2.8% to $2.927 a gallon.

In metals, gold rose $5.50, or 0.32%, to $1,735 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips fell 0.97%, the English FTSE 100 dipped 1.1% to 5733 and the German DAX shed 0.43% to 6512.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 fell 0.09% to 8,841 and the Chinese Hang Seng climbed 0.31% to 20,502.

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