Technology stocks climbed for the sixth day in a row, but the rest of the market was set back by the lingering effects of tropical storms, which pushed crude oil prices to another record high.
Three weeks after Hurricane Ivan, oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is still running 28 percent behind last year, resulting in a tight market and prices that just keep rising.
Today crude oil surged above $51 a barrel for the first time ever, closing up $1.17 at $51.08 a barrel.
Last summer, rising crude oil prices had little impact on consumers, because surpluses of gasoline held prices down. Now, however, down-stream products are catching up with the price of crude. Gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil all are going up, the latest Department of Energy survey shows.
Regular gas is going for an average of just under $1.94 a gallon, up two cents in the past week, the nationwide survey of prices at the pump showed. Diesel prices jumped even more, climbing more than 4 cents a gallon to a record $2.05 a gallon.
Heating oil also traded at new highs today, coming within a fraction of a penny of $1.41 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where crude oil is also traded.
Wall Street-watchers blamed crude oil's new high price for what happened in the stock markets, where early gains vanished in midday for most stocks.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 39 points to 10,177.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index slipped a fraction of a point to 1,134.48.
The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index struggled late in the session and managed to keep its six-day streak alive, closing up three points at 1,955.50.
Pharmaceutical stocks were jolted by the announcement that Chiron Corp. will have to throw out all the flu vaccine it had produced for this season because of unsanitary conditions at the plant were it was produced.
Chiron's stock plunged 18 percent, falling $7.44 a share to $37.98 while at the same time traders gambled that a flu vaccine shortage will benefit MedImmune, the Gaithersburg company that makes Flumist, a nasal-spray alternative to traditional flu shots. MedImmune stock was up nearly 6 percent.
MedImmune's mist was on the market for the past flu season, but was a bomb because it was priced at $46 a dose -- two or three times the price of a shot. This year, MedImmune has cut the price in half and should have no trouble selling Flumist with Chiron out of the market for the season.