After a wobble, US stocks manage slight gains

Major stock indexes shook off an early stumble to finish with slight gains on Friday as traders turned their attention to a key meeting of the Federal Reserve next week.

It was a quiet end to another turbulent week. Thanks largely to a big jump on Tuesday, the market finished with a 2 percent gain for the week, recouping a portion of the steep losses from the week before.

The major indexes headed lower at the opening of trading on Friday, as falling oil prices pulled oil and gas companies down.

The economic news wasn't encouraging, either. A reading on consumer confidence this month sank to its lowest level since September of last year.

"It seems people are focused on the market's volatility and the potential impact of a slowing China," said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors in New York, the money-management firm. "I understand why folks are nervous. I think eventually things will settle down."

The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 8.76 points, or 0.5 percent, to close at 1,961.05.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 102.69 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,433.09, while the Nasdaq composite rose 26.09, or 0.5 percent, to 4,822.34.

News about China's slowing economy, a looming rate increase from the Fed and a host of other concerns have combined to knock the market down 6 percent over the past month. It has been a staggered fall, with sharp drops one week followed by slight gains the next.

Wall Street is divided over whether the Fed will raise its benchmark lending rate next week for the first time in nine years. The Fed slashed its key rate to near zero during the financial crisis, supporting the stock market's seven-year run. Uncertainty over the Fed's timing has kept investors on edge.

Major markets in Europe ended with losses on Friday. Germany's DAX dropped 0.9 percent, while France's CAC-40 sank 1 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 slipped 0.6 percent.

In Asia, China's Shanghai Composite Index added 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.2 percent.

Before traders return to their desks on Monday, a large batch of Chinese economic news will come out over the weekend. Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG in London, said that could lead to a turbulent start to trading next week.

"The weekend release of Chinese retail sales, industrial production and fixed asset investment numbers means that Monday is likely to start with a bang," Mahony said.

Back in the U.S., Kroger gained 5 percent after reporting earnings that beat analysts' estimates. The grocery store chain's stock rose $1.89 to $37.29.

Prices for U.S. government bonds rose, pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 2.19 percent from 2.23 percent late Thursday.

In the commodity markets, precious and industrial metals finished mostly lower. Gold dropped $6 to settle at $1,103.30 an ounce, and silver sank 14 cents to $14.50 an ounce. Copper settled unchanged from the day before at $2.45 a pound.

The price of oil fell on concerns that the current glut of oil would persist well into next year. Goldman Sachs cut its forecast for oil prices next year to $45 a barrel from $57, saying supplies were far higher than previous estimates. U.S. crude fell $1.29 to close at $44.63 a barrel in New York. Brent Crude, a benchmark for international oil, fell 75 cents to close at $48.14 in London.

In other trading:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 2.4 cents to close at $1.370 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 2.5 cents to close at $1.550 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 1 cent to close at $2.693 per 1,000 cubic feet.