Crude oil prices finally broke today, but not before hitting another record.
Acrophobia set in after crude oil futures jumped to $54.45 a barrel -- the latest in a long series of all-time highs recorded on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Unwilling to keep buying oil at such high prices when two key reports on petroleum supplies are due tomorrow, traders backed away so rapidly that crude oil ended the session down $1.13 at $52.51 a barrel.
On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Department of Energy and the American Petroleum Institute are scheduled to release their latest updates on energy stockpiles -- which have been important market movers in recent weeks.
Today's break in crude oil futures helped Wall Street dig itself out of early losses. As oil prices were soaring in morning trading, stock prices were sinking, pulling the Dow Jones industrial average down as much as 65 points. After oil changed directions, stock gradually recovered most of their losses, closing with minor losses.
The Dow closed down 5 points at 10077.18. The Standard & Poors 500 stock index lost almost three points, closing at 1121.84. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index fell nearly 4 points to 1925.17.
Computer chip stocks lead the market lower in anticipation that Intel Corp. would deliver a discouraging quarterly report after the bell. Intel's numbers turned out not to be so bad after all. Profits grew 15 percent -- the company's weakest performance in more than a year -- but revenues came in stronger than analysts were expecting. Intel stock, down 33 cents to $20.28 in regular trading, began to climb in the after-hours session.