Crude oil futures soared to an all-time record high today, holding back a stock market that otherwise seemed eager to move higher.
Opening strongly this morning, stocks faded toward the close. By the end of the session the familiar indexes were mixed for the day and were down for the week.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained eight points to 10,047.24, but were down 237 points for the week, a loss of 2.3 percent.
The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index fell seven points to 1,879.48 and for the week was off 30 points or 1.6 percent.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index gained a little less than two points and at its close of 1,110.11 was off 18 points for the week, also a 1.6 percent loss.
It was the first loss after six winning weeks in a row for the S&P index, which had climbed slowly and steadily since early August, even while the tech stocks and blue chips were struggling.
This week, however, the whole market lost its momentum as oil prices raged back to record levels, warnings of weakening corporate profits came daily and the political uncertainty over the November election continued.
Today crude oil futures climbed another 42 cents a barrel to $48.88, the highest they have ever closed on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Crude climbed even though the Bush administration backed away from its previous policy and decided to "lend" some oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to oil companies that had lost production when Hurricane Ivan ripped through the Gulf of Mexico.
Democrats and big oil users have been pressing the president for months to open the reserve to drive down prices, but the White House has insisted the reserve is for emergencies, not managing prices. Today's rising prices showed that, in fact, the decision did not stop crude's climb.
Oil experts now are predicting that crude will top $50 a barrel by next week, a level that is psychologically shocking, but whose impact on the economy is less clear. Most economists have been counting on energy prices to ease by the end of the year. Consumer spending has been hurt by high gasoline prices and now with the heating season soon to start, heating oil bills will also be biting into family budgets.