Saudi Arabia helped save the stock and oil markets today, but Wall Street was whipped by the winds of a pair of hurricanes.
After scoring their biggest gain in two months on Tuesday following reassuring comments from the Federal Reserve, stocks opened sharply lower this morning and oil prices headed up again.
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 100 points in the first half hour of trading and the Nasdaq Stock Market composite dropped to a new low in response to a warning by Cisco Systems executives that customers were growing cautious about placing orders.
Oil and the Dow quickly reversed course, however, when traders heard that Saudi officials were offering to pump another 1.3 million barrels of oil a day. That ought to bring down oil prices and help the economy, traders reasoned.
Before long, however, oil prices were heading back up, based on government reports showing tighter than expected supplies and word that oil companies were evacuating production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico because of hurricane warnings.
After oil prices rebounded, the Dow dropped back into losing territory, ending the session off six points at 9,938.32.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index fell 3 points to 1,075.79.
The Nasdaq composite took a much bigger hit, falling almost 1.5 percent to close down 26 at 1,782.42. Cisco's stock dropped nearly 11 percent, dragging down technology stocks and the entire Nasdaq market.
Cisco's warning that sales are slowing because customers have become less optimistic about the economy also undercut the sunnier view offered by the Fed, which forecast a resumption in economic growth.