updated 3/12/2010 5:35:45 PM ET 2010-03-12T22:35:45

Mixed economic reports held the stock market to only modest moves Friday but gains for the week were strong.

Major Market Indices

Uneven figures on retail sales and consumer confidence gave investors little new insight into the economy.

The reports weren't enough to propel the market higher a day after the Standard & Poor's 500 index closed at its highest level in 17 months. That index slipped Friday, but the Dow Jones industrial average tacked on nearly 13 points.

Major stock indicators climbed for the week after investors grew more upbeat about the health of banks. Shares of Citigroup Inc. rose 13.4 percent for the week.

Stocks had been modestly higher at the start of trading Friday after a surprising increase in February retail sales. The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.3 percent last month. Analysts had expected a drop.

A weaker report on consumer sentiment disappointed traders. The preliminary Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for March fell to 72.5 from 73.6 in late February.

Investors also were displeased with the Commerce Department's report that inventories were unchanged. Economists had forecast an increase. Analysts are hoping that businesses will restock store shelves on a consistent basis, which would be a positive signal for the economy.

The reports come as investors look for more signs about the economy's direction. The market bounced higher in the prior week after the Labor Department said employers cut fewer jobs in February than economists had expected. But trading has been more subdued since.

Neil Menard, principal at Steben & Co. in Rockville, Md., said the market could continue to make incremental gains until investors have a better sense about the job market. He sees little confidence behind stocks' advance the past two weeks.

"There is a lack of conviction in the markets," he said. "Everyone is kind of in wait-and-see mode."

The Dow rose 12.85, or 0.1 percent, to 10,624.69. The broader S&P 500 index slipped 0.25, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,149.99. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.80, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,367.66. It stands at an 18-month high.

For the week, the Dow rose 0.6 percent, the S&P 500 index rose 1 percent and the technology-dominated Nasdaq climbed 1.8 percent.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.70 percent from 3.73 percent late Thursday.

Crude oil fell 87 cents to settle at $81.24 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The dollar mostly fell against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

Stocks were mixed Monday after insurer American International Group Inc. sold one of its big foreign divisions to MetLife Inc. for $15.5 billion. The market rose Tuesday and Wednesday and posted bigger gains Thursday after Citigroup's CEO said the bank was moving toward "sustained profitability." Citigroup was the hardest hit bank during the financial crisis.

The coming week could provide important signals about the economy. The Federal Reserve's interest rate committee meets Tuesday. Although policymakers are almost certain to leave their target interest rate at a record low of essentially zero, traders will be looking at the policy statement that follows the meeting. Even the slightest shift in the Fed's language on how long interest rates will remain unchanged or on its assessment of the economy likely would move the market. Reports are also due on inflation and regional manufacturing.

Christian Hviid, chief market strategist at Genworth Financial Asset Management in Encino, Calif., said the market's slow ascent during the week was good but that stocks are still up too much in the past month.

"It's better that we move slowly upward than violently up and then see a lot of volatility," he said.

The S&P 500 index is up 8.8 percent from its recent low on Feb. 8. A gain of that size might typically come in a year.

Hviid said the trading volume and activity that comes with next week's expiration of options contracts could shake up the market.

Advancing stock narrowly outpaced those that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.1 billion shares compared with 982.5 million Thursday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 0.63, or 0.1 percent, to 676.59.

Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 0.3 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell less than 0.1 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.8 percent.

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