Wall Street ended up on Friday but down for the week as major events from Asia to Northern Africa continued to unfold. Financials were also in focus, gaining at the end of the trading week as the Fed gave some big banks the green light to increase their dividends.
Investors kept a keen eye on the latest developments in Japan's nuclear crisis one week after the earthquake and tsunami hit. Meanwhile, the Nikkei rose nearly 3% to end the week after the G7 intervened to rein in the rise of the yen, which hit a record high against the dollar on Thursday.
While ending down for the week, all major indices recovered from the 2011 lows they hit earlier this week. The Dow rose 0.71 percent on Friday to close at 11,858.52 (down 1.54 percent for the week), while the S&P 500 gained 0.43 percent to close at 1,279.20 (down 1.92 percent for the week) and the Nasdaq rose 0.29 percent to close at 2,636,05 (off 2.65 percent for the week).
The CBOE Volatility Index, the market's "fear gauge", closed below 25 after soaring to 30 earlier in the week.
Oil was volatile amid news out of Libya, Bahrain and Yemen (where protests in the capital turned violent); crude ended the day down slightly (at $101.07 per barrel) after Libya announced a ceasefire in recent hostilities (many reports, however, say fighting continues).
Friday was also quadruple witching day (when contracts on stock index futures and options and stock equity options and single stock futures all expire), a once a quarter event that can increase volatility.