U.S. stocks ended mixed Friday but closed higher for the second consecutive week as a better-than-expected retail sales report raised hopes for a broader economic recovery. 

The Dow Jones industrial average managed to stay at an 18-month high while the broader S&P 500 index and the tech-heavy NASDAQ ended the day little changed.  Advancing issues beat those that declined in price by an eight-to-seven margin on the New York Stock Exchange where volume picked up slightly to 1.05 billion shares.

For the week, the blue-chip Dow average gained 0.6% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq advanced 1.8%.  The S&P 500 index gained 1% during the week.  Financials snapped a 10-day winning run. Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) declined 1.8% and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) was off 0.8%.  Bailed-out insurer AIG (NYSE:AIG) dropped 2.5%.

Treasury prices were mixed.  The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.70% from 3.73% late Thursday.  Crude prices fell 87 cents to settle at $81.24 per barrel.

Seven of the ten S&P 500 industry sectors ended the week higher, led by telecommunications (+2.6%), financials (+2.2%), technology (+1.7%), industrials (+1.6%), consumer services (+1.2%), oil and gas (+0.7%), basic materials (+0.6%), consumer goods (0.1%), health care (-0.1%), and utilities (-0.3%).

The week ahead assumes significance, with the item of most event risk likely the rate-setting FOMC meeting on Tuesday. While discussions on monetary policy are important from traders’ point of view, outlook for economic growth and exit policy measures are also expected to keep investors focused. 

Today Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd will unveil a sweeping plan to overhaul financial regulatory reform, without Republican backing.

The OPEC meeting in Vienna on Wednesday is unlikely to adjust output levels, with oil prices at satisfactory levels.

Zacks Investment Research