NEW YORK, JAN. 17 -- Above PaineWebber Inc.'s oil-trading desk in lower Manhattan there are four clocks. One is set to New York time, one to London, one to Tokyo.

The fourth has a crude sign under it that says "Baghdad" -- and a red line drawn diagonally across the clock face.

Nobody wanted to miss a minute. Fueled by a night of punishing military domination of Iraq, the engines of American capital roared into its first full day of war as stocks soared and oil prices plummeted.

New York clamored for information throughout the night, as financial markets digested the stream of radio, wire and television reports from the Middle East. The sights and sounds of the desert crowded the parlors of commerce all day.

By the time most markets opened today it was clear that even one day's worth of bad news for Baghdad had become a gold mine for the American investor. Markets were poised with exquisite sensitivity to each new development in the Persian Gulf.

9:22 a.m.: The equity trading room of Smith Barney, Harris, Upham & Co. sits high above Central Park in midtown Manhattan. But nobody noticed the view, particularly today. With eight minutes until the market bursts open, traders were too busy buckling themselves in for the day ahead.

"What we are going to see here is a wild sense of euphoria," said Jacques S, Theriot, a Smith Barney senior vice president, girding for the day. "The night went well and the stock market is going to be joyous."

Joyous indeed. The market was up nearly 100 points in the first hour of trading.

"If it was like this every hour," Theriot said knowingly, "we'd only have to work till 10:00."

9:45 a.m.: The New York Mercantile Exchange opened and closed within a minute as the price of oil plummeted immediately after a busy night of trading on the informal "spot" oil market. Trading was stopped when it reached the low $20s -- more than the $7.50 movement allowed at any time. On the commodities trading floor of New York's Chemical Bank, oil trader Cynthia Kase waited out the hour in amazement, awed by the amount of money that was won -- and lost -- in the space of a single minute.

"I thought it might take a week to get to this level as more news came out of the region -- kind of a soft landing," she said. "But with the glut of oil, everyone is looking to bail out now."

9:53 a.m.: The stock market had been open for less than half an hour and everybody is on edge. International Business Machines Corp. had reported earnings slightly better than the experts at Smith Barney had expected, and on the exchange IBM buy orders were too backed up for trading in the stock to open as scheduled at 9:30.

"Hello, my friend, hello," a trader shouted as he noticed on his screen that IBM has finally opened way up at 115. "Is that going to move or not?" Nobody waited for an answer because one salesman had just announced that he "has" 500 Global Marines -- that is, 500,000 shares of Global Marine Inc.

The traders immediately got on the phones with their institutional clients -- pension funds, insurance companies, banks -- trying to move Global Marine like a Buick dealer with an overstocked showroom.

"It's looking like a comer," one trader said, pitching a regular customer. "I think it's going to ride the day rather well." No sale here, but within the hour, the Global Marine had been moved to other accounts.

10:35 a.m.: After an hour of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was on a roll -- and so was Smith Barney. A hot order for Southwest Airlines Co. shares had just come in, and with oil prices in a free fall, everyone was eager to buy stocks of companies that were likely to benefit from the petro-plunge.

"I got LUV honey {the ticker name for Southwest} and I know you want it," one Smith Barney trader whispered into her massive blinking phone. "I know. I know. That is why I'm going to show you 400 {400,000} shares."

But nothing moves hotter than a good thing. By the time she got the customers approval to take the order, the stock had disappeared.

11:01 a.m.: The oil futures market was open again and trading was relatively calm. Prices drifted slightly lower as traders waited for more information to move over the tickers or the oil traders new tip sheet of choice, Cable News Network.

"It really does not deserve to fall that much in a day," said a trader at J. Aron & Co. of the nearly $10 drop since the war began.

Some traders were clearly worried that the oil market may have reacted too optimistically to the news of allied success in the Middle East. "People are taking all the early news of what is going on there at face value," said one trader who, like his colleagues, preferred anonymity. "It's probably smarter to wait and see if there are some things to worry about." But this is the old market, where buy and sell is preferred over wait and see.

1:21 p.m.: A small oil producer wanted to sell some of his crude for February delivery, locking in prices today before they decline even further. But Chemical's Kase advised her client to sell his product over the course of a few days, since the situation was still unsure.

"Who knows, there may be some dogfights, Israel could get involved still, there might all of a sudden be some damage to oil supplies," explained Kase, who had just completed 15 years as an engineer with the Navy Reserves. "When it's 100 percent safe in the market, prices will stabilize completely -- right now we would need more good news to make it drop more."

2:40 p.m.: The oil market was swept by a tantalizing rumor: A major brokerage house is preparing to "dump" 2,000 crude oil contracts for February delivery -- equal to 2 million barrels of oil, or more than 10 percent of U.S. daily supply -- on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The sale would be made just as the market closes, at 3:10 p.m. "That would slam-dunk" the price, one veteran trader said, frantically calling customers to tell them the news and urge them to sell before the market drops.

"I'm hearing that there's a size seller, like several thousand Febs, at the close," he told a customer. "There's not enough buying interest to hold it." Some customers bit. Others held back. "Honestly, it's a great buying opportunity if they dump it at the close," the trader told another customer.

Sure enough, at about 3:06, the price of February crude oil, which had been trading steadily at about $21.50 a barrel, started to dip in 10-cent increments. It dropped as low as $21.10 before bouncing back right at the close to $2.30. When all the day's trades were tallied, the official closing price was set at $21.44 -- a record $10.56 drop from the day before.

3:56 p.m.: The stock market was to close in four minutes. The Dow had climbed nearly 115 points, its second-best day ever.

"Hi buddy, just wanted to check in with ya," Theriot said to a customer, lining up the next day's action, recapping the highlights of the day about to end.

"It took a real ride today," he said. "Tomorrow? Who knows. I don't see quite as much trading or as strong rise. I guess we will have to see what the Air Force does tonight."

Staff writer Mark Potts contributed to this article.