Oil worries and a raft of economic uncertainties plagued Wall Street on Thursday, sending stocks lower as investors collected profits after the strong gains of the previous two sessions.
Oil prices edged higher after a report said that oil producers in the Gulf of Mexico continued to struggle to resume full operations after Hurricane Katrina. And an inventory report from the Energy Department showed the nation's oil and gasoline stockpiles fell considerably in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, although the losses were less than Wall Street expected. A barrel of light crude settled at $64.49, up 12 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Yet with oil remaining in the mid-$60 per barrel range, investors were concerned that both corporate earnings and consumer spending would drop due to high energy costs. Investors also worried that the Federal Reserve would continue to raise interest rates at its Sept. 20 meeting. Despite Katrina's devastation and death toll, the harm to the U.S. economy was less than originally expected, and hopes of a halt in rate hikes dimmed.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 37.57, or 0.35 percent, to 10,595.93. The Dow had gained 186.13 in the previous two sessions. Broader stock indicators also lost ground. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 4.68, or 0.38 percent, to 1,231.68, and the Nasdaq composite index dropped 6.00, or 0.28 percent, to 2,166.03, AP reports.