Stocks: Investors sit tight at end of rough week

@CNNMoneyInvest November 18, 2011: 6:18 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks ended Friday with little change, following two days of steep declines, as investors kept close tabs on Europe's ongoing crisis and the latest debt committee news from Washington.

"Investors are focused on the potential headwinds from two exogenous wildcards," said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors.

Stocks flipped between small gains and losses and finished the day mixed. The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) added 25 points, or 0.2%, and the Nasdaq (COMP) edged down 15 points, or 0.6%. The S&P 500 (SPX) lost less than 1 point. Earlier, the broad index had gained as much as 0.6%, and had dropped as much as 0.4%.

Friday's jerky but mild moves came at the end of a roller coaster week on Wall Street. After making modest moves up and down at the start of the week, stocks sold off sharply Wednesday and Thursday on mounting eurozone fears.

The Dow finished the week down 2.9%, while the S&P lost 3.8% and Nasdaq slid nearly 4%. The losses were the worst in two months for all three indexes.

Markets around the world continue to gyrate as the eurozone debt crisis has started spilling over to larger economies in Europe. Yields on Italian, Spanish and French government bonds have been rising amid doubts that European policymakers will be able to resolve the Continent's problems.

European bonds signal more pain

While efforts in Greece and Italy to tame the debt crisis have taken center stage in recent weeks, investors are beginning to worry about Spain, where yields on 10-year bonds have nearly topped 7% recently.

"They're expecting for another shoe to drop, and that's what's driving the psychology right now," said Orlando, noting that progress has been made "but investors aren't satisfied."

The other wild card investors are grappling with is the bipartisan debt committee's fast-approaching deadline. The super committee, by law, is supposed to vote on a plan by next Wednesday.

"Everyone is scared to death that the super committee is dysfunctional and isn't going to get anything done," said Orlando, though he's in the minority camp that still has faith that lawmakers will "work their butts of this weekend" and deliver a plan, even if it comes in just under the wire.

World markets: European stocks ended lower. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) fell 1.1%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany dropped 0.9% and France's CAC 40 (CAC40) edged down 0.4%.

Asian markets ended ended sharply lower. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) tumbled 1.9%, the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong dropped 1.7% and Japan's Nikkei (N225) lost 1.2%.

Economy: The latest installment of the Conference Board's Leading Economic Indicators Index was significantly better than expected.

The index rose 0.9% in October, following a 0.1% uptick the previous month. Analysts were expecting 0.6%.

"This helps confirm that the U.S. economy is in fact accelerating, and not slipping into another recession," said Orlando. "But nobody really cares, at least at the moment, about improving domestic economic fundamentals."

Companies: Shares of (CRM) dropped Friday, after the cloud-based software maker reported a $3.8 million third-quarter loss late Thursday.

HJ Heinz (HNZ, Fortune 500) posted quarterly earnings early Friday that just beat analyst expectations, but its revenue of $2.8 billion missed estimates, sending shares slightly lower.

Shares of Ann Taylor (ANN) fell even after the retailer posted earnings that beat expectations and said same-store sales rose 7.9%.

Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ, Fortune 500) stock rose after the PC-maker added activist shareholder Ralph Whitworth to its board late Thursday. HP is on deck to report quarterly earnings early next week.

On Thursday, Angie's List (ANGI), an online provider of consumer reviews, gained 25% in its public debut Thursday. But shares slipped 4% Friday.

The weak euro: Look out below!

Currencies and commodities: The dollar lost ground against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil for December delivery fell $1.41 to $97.41 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery added $4.90 to settle at $1,725.10 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury fell, pushing the yield up to 2.01% from 1.96% late Thursday.  To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 32,627.97 -234.33 -0.71%
Nasdaq 13,215.24 99.07 0.76%
S&P 500 3,913.10 -2.36 -0.06%
Treasuries 1.73 0.00 0.12%
Data as of 6:29am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Ford Motor Co 8.29 0.05 0.61%
Advanced Micro Devic... 54.59 0.70 1.30%
Cisco Systems Inc 47.49 -2.44 -4.89%
General Electric Co 13.00 -0.16 -1.22%
Kraft Heinz Co 27.84 -2.20 -7.32%
Data as of 2:44pm ET
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.80%3.88%
15 yr fixed3.20%3.23%
5/1 ARM3.84%3.88%
30 yr refi3.82%3.93%
15 yr refi3.20%3.23%
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