updated 3/19/2010 4:03:08 PM ET 2010-03-19T20:03:08

Stocks halted their steady climb Friday after renewed concerns about Greece's ability to pay its debts left investors questioning a global economic recovery.

Major Market Indices

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 40 points after advancing for eight straight days. Broader indexes also fell.

Markets around the world were mixed after Greece said it might need to turn to the International Monetary Fund for support if European leaders can't agree on a bailout plan next week. Worries about Greece's ability to handle its massive debt load have set off periodic bouts of stock selling in the U.S. and overseas over the past two months.

Investors also were cautious after India's central bank raised interest rates to combat rising prices. That prompted concern that central banks in other countries would follow suit. Reports in the U.S. this week signaled that inflation is minimal.

The news out of Greece and India chilled an advance in U.S. stocks that grew out of rising optimism about a recovery.

"The economic data so far continues to be friendly, but there are a lot of concerns out there," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at the brokerage Avalon Partners Inc. in New York. "The Greek situation is affecting the dollar."

The dollar, regaining its appeal as a safe investment, rose against the euro and other currencies Friday. Concerns remain that debt problems could spill over to other weak European countries like Spain and Portugal, Cardillo said.

Stocks in the U.S. have been rising since a January-February slump. Investors are encouraged that the economy is getting better, even if it's at a slow pace. The modest improvements have translated into a stock market that creeps higher rather than leaps as it did last year. Still, even with incremental gains some analysts warn that the market needs some pullbacks to avoid getting overheated.

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow fell 40.21, or 0.37 percent, to 10,738.96. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 6.12, or 0.52 percent, to 1,159.71, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 16.87, or 0.71 percent, to 2,374.41.

The Dow has risen for eight straight days, its longest stretch of gains since August. The Dow on Thursday logged its highest close since Oct. 1, 2008. Broader indexes are also at their best levels since 2008 so the selling Friday wasn't surprising. Many traders like to sell some of their stronger holdings when stocks push to new highs.

Three stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 955.5 million shares compared with 442.6 million traded at the same point Thursday. Volume was heavy Friday because of the expiration of four kinds options and futures contracts.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.67 percent from 3.68 percent late Thursday.

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

Crude oil fell $1.83 to $80.37 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as the dollar rose. The stronger dollar made commodities more expensive to foreign buyers. That hurt demand.

A planned House vote Sunday on a proposed health care overhaul also made investors more uncertain, though many health stocks rose.

Stephen Lieber, chief investment officer at Alpine Woods Investments in Purchase, N.Y., said investors are trying to determine what might occur this weekend and whether the Senate would vote on a version of the bill next week without making major changes.

"We're floating around in a big question mark," he said.

Among health stocks, UnitedHealth Group Inc. rose 85 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $34.44, while Cigna Corp. rose $1.11, or 3.1 percent, to $36.95.

In other trading, aircraft maker Boeing Co. said it will boost production of its 777 and 747 models in anticipation of greater demand from commercial airlines. The increase was originally planned early 2012. Boeing rose 71 cents, or 1 percent, to $71.58. The company is a Dow component, so its gain offset some of the average's loss.

Palm Inc. tumbled after reporting a wider-than-expected quarterly loss late Thursday. The maker of handheld devices also forecast revenue for the current quarter that was less than half of what analysts had predicted. Competition from iPhones and BlackBerrys is hurting the company's business. The stock fell $1.50, or 26.6 percent, to $4.15.

The market's moves and low volume during the week pointed to investors' continuing caution as they try to assess the strength of the economic recovery.

Stocks edged higher Monday and posted bigger gains Tuesday after the Fed left its benchmark interest rate at a record low, as expected. Policymakers said rates would remain low because inflation was in check. The central bank also said there was modest improvement in the job market and that businesses were spending more on equipment and software.

Inflation figures on Wednesday and Thursday confirmed the Fed's assessment that prices are under control.

The coming week brings reports on sales of new and existing homes and orders for big-ticket manufactured items. Investors have been able in recent weeks to shrug off disappointing housing stats. However, they might become nervous if the numbers start looking overly weak.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 8.07, or 1.2 percent, to 673.54.

Overseas, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 0.5 percent, and France's CAC-40 lost 0.3 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.8 percent.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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