Stocks inched ahead again today, hanging on to small gains despite the strong headwinds of Hurricane Ivan, which pushed up petroleum prices and shut down production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Crude oil futures rose 52 cents a gallon to $44.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as traders cashed in on the short-term impact of Ivan on the off-shore oil fields that are threatened by the storm.

More than 13,000 workers have been pulled off oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, and oil production has been cut by about 1 million barrels a day, the Bloomberg news service reported.

Refineries and other oil facilities along the U.S. Gulf Coast also are being shut down as Ivan hunts for a beach to come ashore.

Economic weather reports were as uncertain as the track of the storm today. Retail sales for August were down 0.3 percent -- if you count cars -- and up 0.2 percent--if you don't count cars.

Factoring out autos from the Commerce Department may give a more accurate picture of consumer's spending patterns, but doing so simultaneously leaves out the health of the auto industry, another important economic bellwether.

Neither interpretation of the data, however, seemed to move the market much.

The Dow Jones industrial average, which had gained less than two points on Monday, closed up a little more than three points today at 10.318.16.

The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index picked up 2.5 points, closing at 1,128.33

The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index gained five points to 1,915.40.