After opening higher, the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq turned modestly negative, a reversal that extended a turbulent period for markets.
The shift in sentiment has hit share prices around the world.
European markets, though, continued in strong positive ground. The FTSE 100 share index closed up more than 2.2 percent at 6,733.97 points.
In Germany, the DAX gained about 1.7 percent, while France’s CAC index also rose about 1.7 percent.
The sharp swings in prices continued this week, though analysts cautioned that movements were exacerbated by the lower dealing levels seen during holiday trading.
Many markets have had a dismal year.
Japans’ Nikkei has suffered its first annual loss in seven years, while Germany’s Dax index closed the year down about 18 percent – the biggest annual loss in a decade.
On Friday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 ended 0.31 percent lower at 20,014.77, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed flat, at 25,504.20.
US shares have been hit this week by weaker than expected home sales and consumer confidence data.
Concerns about US-China trade tensions also resurfaced, with reports saying US President Donald Trump is considering an executive order banning the use of Chinese technology.