The Dow Jones industrial average fell for the sixth day in a row as investors swallowed the latest record energy prices.
Gasoline prices have jumped by 8 cents a gallon in the last two weeks, the Lundberg Survey reported. Averaging $2.32 a gallon nationwide, gas prices are just 8 cents a gallon below the all-time record and are heading higher because prices at the pump don't yet reflect the more recent hikes in crude oil prices.
Today crude oil finally closed above $60 a barrel for the first time, climbing 70 cents a barrel to $60.54. Crude futures have crossed the $60 barrier before, but until today they settled back below that level by the close of regular trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
That didn't happen today, as crude prices jumped and stuck and wholesale gasoline climbed 2 cents a gallon.
Oil traders, who tend to bid up prices first and then come up with a reason, blamed today's gains on the outcome of elections in Iran. The country's new president, who doesn't take office until later this summer, has signaled that he opposes allowing foreign oil companies to expand their role in Iran. To oil traders that is a warning that the world can't count on getting more oil from Iran and may instead have to get by with less.
Oil may be on its way to an Independence Day peak. With AAA predicting this Fourth of July holiday weekend will surpass Thanksgiving as the busiest travel time of the year, demand for motor fuels is holding steady despite rising prices. After the holiday, crude prices could soften a bit, but no major relief in prices at the pump is expected.
Stock traders tried to ignore the influence of oil today, overcoming early losses and pushing the familiar indexes into positive territory late in the day. But those gains didn't hold and all the indexes closed slightly lower.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 7 points to 10,290.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index slipped a point to 1,190.69. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index lost 8 points, closing at 2,045.20.