“I think the fear is the Fed is going to raise rates… to preserve their reputation,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management. “That’s part of the reason why we’re seeing a very strong dollar, weakness in oil and metals.”
The Federal Open Market Committee meets next week, with all eyes on whether or not “patient” remains in the statement. Quarterly options also expire.
“We’re looking at a choppy market. Many traders are not going to put in many trades before next week’s major events,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. “There’s no question that the chances of the Fed statement being altered have risen, certainly to about 50 percent. But there are other factors that (indicate) the Fed is not going to change it’s language.”
The U.S. dollar rose more than half a percent to a new 52-week high, for its first close above 100 since April 2003. The euro extended losses to fall below $1.05.
“I think the market is trading off the dollar. Obviously the dollar strength is pressuring stocks,” said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.
Crude oil futures settled down $2.21, or 4.70 percent, to $44.84 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold futures settled up 50 cents to $1,152.40 an ounce, briefly turning negative amid its the worst losing streak since 1973.
The Dow fell more than 250 points before recovering to close 145 points lower. The major indices declined, with nearly all blue chips lower and all S&P 500 sectors in the red. The Dow and S&P 500 posted their third week of declines, while the Nasdaq closed lower for the second straight week.
“I think it’s down because the mixed economic messages we’re getting is making the Fed move messy,” said Tim Dreiling, senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
“When the data is mixed and the data is messy, that injects the fundamental uncertainty,” he said.
Friday’s economic data added to the mixed growth picture, but most analysts attributed weakness to seasonality.
The U.S. Producer Price index for February showed a decline of 0.5 percent, missing estimates of a 0.3 percent gain.
Consumer sentiment data showed a preliminary read of 91.2 in March versus 95.4 in February.
“All (consumer data) are impacted by weather,” said Maris Ogg, president of Tower Bridge Advisors. “I think the spring will bring spending and retail sales will” pick up.
Since the release of February’s jobs report last Friday, stocks have fluctuated with changing perceptions of an interest rate hike and strengthening in the dollar.
“Today’s PPI shows that inflation is not the problem. I suggest that fixation (on the Fed) has caused this market to act in a very volatile manner and preparing itself for declines. Not a fundamental issue,” Cardillo said.
U.S. stocks surged on Thursday as the dollar paused its rally, continuing several days of downward and upward swings.
“I think it’s just the fact that the market is pretty fairly valued,” Ogg said. “There’s a lot more risk when the market is fairly valued. We probably have to suffer through this volatility through this year.”
“The path of least resistance at this moment seems to be down, not big, but there’s a lack of conviction,” she said. “We’re trading a little with oil. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 5 to 10 percent (correction) in the next few months.”
The market was also intrigued with Russia, as President Vladimir Putin canceled a planned summit in Astana this week. The Kremlin published three official photos of Putin meeting with a Russian Supreme Court Judge on Friday, Dow Jones reported.
Phil Quartuccio, CEO of Illustro Trading, said “we’ve been big buyers today” and “we’re trading as usual.”
In the unfolding story over Herbalife, Dow Jones reports that prosecutors are interviewing people tied to investor Bill Ackman in a case involving potential manipulation of Herbalife’s stock. Ackman has had a long-standing short position in Herbalife, saying the nutritional supplements maker is a pyramid scheme. He told CNBC he has not heard from the FBI or the Justice Department, and that he’s happy to answer any questions they may have for him.
Google is not planning to compete aggressively with soon-to-be-public GoDaddy in the internet domain space, according to a report in Friday’s New York Post.
Pfizer‘s pain drug Lyrica did not meet goals in a study that examined its effectiveness in treating adolescents with fibromyalgia.
The S&P 500 closed down 12.55 points, or 0.61 percent, at 2,053.40, with utilities leading all ten sectors lower.
The Nasdaq closed down 21.53 points, or 0.44 percent, at 4,871.76.
The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield traded higher near 2.12 percent.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 16.
About two shares declined for every advancer on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 806 million and a composite volume of 3.4 billion in the close.
High-frequency trading accounted for 47.5 percent of March to date’s daily trading volume of about 6.6 billion shares, according to TABB Group. During the peak levels of high-frequency trading in 2009, about 61 percent of 9.8 billion of average daily shares traded were executed by high-frequency traders.
As of Thursday’s close:
- The Dow Jones industrial average was within half a standard deviation above its 50-day moving average. Since 1981 the index has been in this position 5.49 percent of all trading days, according to quantitative analytics tool Kensho. The probability of the index moving lower is 47.1 percent and the probability of it moving higher in the days following is 52.9 percent.
- The S&P 500 was within half a standard deviation above its 50-day moving average. Since 1980 the index has been in this position 5.10 percent of all trading days, according to Kensho. The probability of the index moving higher in the days following is 56.3 percent and the probability of it moving lower is 43.7 percent.
- The Nasdaq composite was within one standard deviation above its 50-day moving average. Since 1980 the index has been in this position 6.46 percent of all trading days, according to Kensho. The probability of the index moving lower is 54.5 percent and the probability of it moving higher is 45.5 percent.
—CNBC’s Katrina Bishop and Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.