Hope for relief from record oil prices evaporated today, leaving stock buyers high and dry.
With oil prices falling for the second day in a row, it started out looking like a good day for Wall Street, with stock indexes all advancing in the first few minutes of trading.
But when oil prices started to swing higher, the stock market rapidly reversed course.
Only a rally in the last few minutes of trading kept the Dow Jones industrial average from falling back below the 10,000 mark -- a number that may not mean much statistically, but that implants itself in the minds of investors.
The Dow closed at 10,002.33 after falling 75 points. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index, which had been up more than 20 points in early trading, slipped steadily to close down five points at 1,920.53. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index fell eight points to 1,113.64.
There were sound reasons for stocks to gain today. Intel Corp. delivered stronger quarterly sales than expected by investors, who were whispering during Tuesday's trading that the numbers would be bad. Traders who believed that learned differently today as Intel stock climbed 3.5 percent, one of only five Dow stocks to ended the day higher.
Strong sales at McDonald's helped propel most fast food and restaurant stocks, and the tech section got a lift from a stronger than expected performance by Yahoo.
But none of that mattered once oil took control of stock traders' thinking, renewing worries about the economic impact of record energy prices.
In today's trading, crude oil more than made up for Tuesday's retreat in prices -- which investors hoped signaled the peak of prices. No such luck. Crude climbed $1.13 a barrel to $53.64 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Prices of petroleum products climbed even more with home heating oil futures rising 4.5 cents a gallon and gasoline futures up 2.5 cents a gallon. Those jumps forecast more increases in prices at the pump, which was up 11 cents a gallon in the past week in the Washington area, based on the latest AAA survey.