NEW YORK – Stocks rose in light volume Friday as a late afternoon technical rally lifted shares despite a series of weak economic reports and lackluster licensing news from tech giant Oracle Corp (ORCL).
Technical support levels were triggered, traders said, after investors sold off shares.
"It's a little bounce off some support levels, nothing more than that," said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co.
The Dow Jones industrial average (search) closed up 11.79 points, or 0.12 percent, at 9,471.55. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) rose 2.21 points, or 0.22 percent, to 1,018.63. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index (search) closed up 8.95 points, or 0.48 percent, at 1,855.04.
Despite the late rally, all three indexes ended lower for the week. The Dow fell 0.33 percent, Nasdaq fell 0.17 percent and the S&P 500 fell 0.27 percent.
Earlier in the session, the Dow hit its lowest level this month and the S&P 500 hit a low not seen since Sept. 2. Nasdaq fell close to the September low hit on Thursday.
Fueled by expectations for an economic rebound in coming months, stocks have run sharply higher in recent months, peaking early this week. So far this year, the Dow is up 13 percent, Nasdaq is up 39 percent and the S&P 500 is up 16 percent.
But with evidence of recovery still patchy, investors have become nervous that the market has moved too far, too fast.
"The market will remain in a trading range," said Jeff Swensen, senior trader at John Hancock Funds. "We do have a recovery in place, but it's not as robust as what's priced into the market."
Investors are waiting for companies to say they will start hiring and increase spending before they believe the economy has reached the next stage of its recovery, Swensen said.
Stocks traded lower for most of Friday's session, after the government reported total retail purchases rose only 0.6 percent in August, far less than the 1.4 percent gain economists had been expecting. Excluding automobiles, retail sales rose 0.7 percent, mostly in line with forecasts for a 0.8 percent rise.
Economists pay special attention to consumer spending because it powers about two-thirds of economic growth.
Early trading was also soured by Oracle, the world's second-largest software company. It reported a 28 percent jump in quarterly profit, but a surprise 7 percent decline in new license sales disappointed investors.
Oracle also said it expects a modest uptick in its current-quarter revenues but new license sales could continue to drag. Oracle shares fell 43 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $12.55.
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) helped lift the market, as investors welcomed the software giant's move to double its annual dividend. Microsoft shares ended up 50 cents, or 1.8 percent, at $28.34.
Winners included Qualcomm Inc.(QCOM), which rose $1.82 to $42.82, after Merrill Lynch & Co. raised the telecom company's stock rating to "buy" from "neutral."
Janus Capital Group Inc. (JNS) fell $1.38 to $14.50 after Merrill Lynch lowered the mutual fund firm's rating to "neutral" from "buy," citing uncertainty after state and federal regulators announced an investigation into Janus and other firms for potentially improper trading.
Advancers outnumbered decliners 1.5 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange as 1.2 billion shares were traded. Advancers outpaced decliners 1.3 to 1 on Nasdaq, with 1.7 billion shares traded.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, rose 1.63, or 0.3 percent, to 509.06.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished 1.6 percent higher Friday. In Europe, France's CAC-40 fell 0.8 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 declined 0.1 percent and Germany's DAX index dropped 1.7 percent.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.