Stocks managed to squeeze out modest gains in a volatile session yesterday as crude-oil futures, which briefly topped $58 per barrel in...
NEW YORK — Stocks managed to squeeze out modest gains in a volatile session yesterday as crude-oil futures, which briefly topped $58 per barrel in early trading, settled lower.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 16.84 to 10,421.14.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, added 11 cents to close at $24.23 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, fell 45 cents to $58.33. Broader stock indicators also moved modestly higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 3.20 at 1,176.12, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 6.26 to 1,991.07.
Oil prices again kept investors on edge after reaching a new intraday high of $58.28 early in the morning. After fluctuating throughout the session, oil futures settled at $57.01, down 26 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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Yet oil remained a source of concern for investors, who fear that crude prices in the high $50 range could eat into consumer spending, prompting either an economic slowdown or rising prices that could trigger inflation. And there was no real sign that oil would decline substantially.
“It’s hard to say where that line in the sand is, that level for oil prices where the market will seriously sell off,” said Scott Wren, equity strategist for A.G. Edwards & Sons. “I do think that if you have sustained levels of $60 to $65, then the market will be very hard pressed to make any move to the upside.”
The concerns about higher oil prices drew attention away from ChevronTexaco’s $17 billion acquisition of oil explorer Unocal, the reported sale of Morgan Stanley’s Discover Card division and the possibility of a renewed bidding war for MCI.
“No matter what else may be going on, when you have oil topping $58 per barrel, the market’s main focus is going to be inflation-related,” said Peter Cardillo, chief strategist and senior vice president at S.W. Bach. “I don’t see this market collapsing, but it’s going to be like this for a while until we see oil stabilize and we get clarity on interest rates.”