U.S. stocks closed sharply lower Friday, with Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging more than 145 points, as economists look ahead the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting next week. The blue-chip Dow and Standard & Poor's 500 index ended the week sharply lower, erasing all gains for the year as fears over a springtime interest-rate hike from the Fed weighed on investor sentiment.
The Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI), which measures the share prices of 30 large industrial companies, tumbled 145.91 points, or 0.82 percent, to close at 17,749.31. The S&P 500 stock index (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) fell 12.55 points, or 0.61 percent, to end at 2,053.40. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXSP:.INX) lost 21.53 points, or 0.44 percent, to finish at 4,871.76.
For the year, the Dow has lost 71 points, or 0.4 percent, and the S&P 500 has fallen 6 points, 0.27 percent. However, the Nasdaq has gained 136 points, rising more than 2.8 percent in 2015.
All three major indexes closed mixed following a volatile week, driven by speculation that the Fed could raise interest rates soon. U.S. stocks fell early Friday as the dollar continued its surge, while oil prices weakened.
The U.S. dollar hit a new 12-year high against the euro Friday, causing concern for investors as nearly half of U.S. multinationals in the S&P 500 derive revenue growth from overseas. Meanwhile, Dow component Intel Corp. warned Thursday that its first-quarter revenue will be lower than previously expected. Nearly 83 percent of Intel's sales come from overseas, and a prolonged period of dollar strengthening would hurt U.S. multinationals once they convert foreign revenue to dollars. That will then slow earnings growth.
Weak data also weighed on equities after a report revealed U.S. consumer sentiment dropped to a four-month low this month, while U.S. producer prices unexpectedly fell in February.
Oil prices also fell sharply lower Friday after the International Energy Agency warned prices will fall further this year. West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, fell 4.7 percent to close at $44.84 a barrel, for April 15 delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, fell 3.5 percent to $55.12 a barrel, for April 15 delivery on the London ICE Futures Exchange.
Economists are looking ahead to the Fed's two-day policy meeting that begins Tuesday, followed by a news conference from Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen on Wednesday. Economists will be looking for clues from the meeting as to when the central bank plans to hike rates. Most economists anticipate that the Fed will raise rates in mid-2015.