U.S. stocks ended lower on Friday, led by declines from airlines and other transportation companies as oil prices rallied to 30-month high.
The S&P 500 Index was down 5.34 points, or 0.40 percent, at 1,328.17. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 29.44 points, or 0.24 percent, at 12,380.05. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.56 percent.
Airline stocks plunged after crude oil prices climbed above $112 a barrel, the highest level since 2008, as fire burned at Libya’s Sarir field igniting fears about the OPEC-member's ability to get its production back online.
JetBlue Airways corp. (NASDAQ:JBLU) shares plunged 4.25 percent and United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE:UAL) slumped 5.76 percent, while Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE:DAL) declined 3.93 percent.
The earnings season will unofficially kick-off with Alcoa Inc, the first Dow component to release results after the market's close on Monday.
Expedia Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPE) stock climbed 12.95 percent to $25.30 as its board of directors has preliminarily approved a plan to separate the company into two publicly traded entities -- Expedia Inc. and TripAdvisor. The proposed spin-off is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2011.
Seagate Technologies Plc (NASDAQ:STX) surged 7.83 percent to $15.84 after the company said it will pay its first dividend since 2009.
On the economic front, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that inventories of U.S. wholesalers rose 1 percent in February, but their sales fell 0.8 percent, adding new uncertainties to the economic recovery.
European stock markets advanced on Friday, led by gains from basic resources companies’ shares as commodity prices surged.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index advanced 0.32 percent to 281.68. DAX30 gained 38.24 points or 0.53 percent to 7,217.02 and FTSE 100 advanced 48.38 points or 0.81 percent to 6,055.75, while CAC 40 gained 33.61 points or 0.83 percent 4,061.91.
Among mining stocks, Rio Tinto Plc gained 3.17 percent and BHP Billiton Plc surged 2.72 percent, while Kazakhmys Plc gained 1.91 percent.
African Barrick Gold Plc gained 3.39 percent and Randgold Resources advanced 2.1percent after Gold advanced to a new recordhigh as a weaker dollar and concerns about inflation and European debt boosted demand for the metal as an alternative investment.
SGL Carbon SE climbed 7.16 percent after the company said its board and senior management bought 112,346 shares of the company with a total value of 3.9 million euros.
Portuguese stocks gained as euro zone finance ministers were set to discuss the country's bailout plea on Friday, including how much it needs and what reforms it could do in return.
Most Asian stock markets ended higher on Friday despite Japan’s latest earthquake in the northeastern coast.
The 7.4-magnitude earthquake resulted to a tsunami alert which was soon lifted by the local weather agency. Japanese authorities reported no damage to the nation’s nuclear power stations.
Tokyo shares gained on back of strong performance from major retailers. Benchmark Nikkei advanced 1.85 percent or 177.15 points to 9,768.08.
Fast Retailing Co. surged 7.27 percent to 11,940 yen after the company raised its full-year net income forecast by 18 percent to 60 billion yen on overseas growth and lower costs.
Among the automakers, Honda Motor advanced 1.43 percent to 2,969 yen and Toyota Motor advanced 1.36 percent to 3,340 yen.
South Korean shares edge higher, led by gains from shipyards including Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. Seoul composite gained 5.83 points or 0.27 percent to 2,127.97.
Hyundai Heavy Industries Co Ltd. climbed 3.58 percent on news that the company had signed a letter of intent with Norwegian shipping and LNG company Hoegh LNG for delivery of up to six floating storage and regasifiation units (FSRUs), while Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd surged 6.57 percent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 114.27 points or 0.47 percent to 24,396.07 and Chinese Shanghai composite gained 0.74 percent or 22.19 points to 3,030.10.