Fifty dollars a barrel last week, $51 a barrel on Monday, $52 today.
Crude futures hit new highs for the second day in a row today, spewing an oily gloom over the stock market as investors braced for two crucial economic reports coming Thursday and Friday.
Stocks spun their wheels on the oil news until late in the session, when they finally gained a little traction.
The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index climbed for the seventh straight day, stretching its winning streak to 112 points, with a gain today of almost 16 points that pushed the index to 1,971.03.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 62 points to 10,239.92.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index picked up almost 8 points, closing at 1,142.05.
Stocks scored almost all their gains in the final hour of trading, but the crude oil traders on the New York Mercantile Exchange did not wait too long to make their move.
Soon after the Department of Energy issued a report showing U.S. stockpiles are growing -- but not growing as fast as expected -- crude futures topped $52 for the first time. Mercifully the momentum broke before the close, but crude still climbed 93 cents a barrel to $52.02.
Although energy stocks continue to rise along with oil prices, traders are worried about the effect higher fuel prices will have on the economy, and that concern is holding back stock prices.
Thursday the nation's big chain stores will report their September sales, which are expected to reflect the damage done by last month's hurricanes as well as whether consumer spending nationwide is being pinched by high pump prices.
Today the Department of Energy warned consumers that they face about a one-third increase in heating costs this winter -- based on the latest long-range weather forecasts and what's happening to prices of heating oil and natural gas.
Friday the market will be watching for the government's jobs report, which could provide much of the test for that night's presidential debate. Traders will get a preview of the unemployment report Thursday when weekly tallies of applications for jobless benefits are released, but the new job growth number that is scheduled to be released Friday morning is what's really critical.