Yesterday the price of oil didn't matter to Wall Street, but today was another matter.
The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 101 points after oil futures traders pushed the prices of crude oil, heating oil and gasoline to record levels in response to tropical storms raging toward petroleum production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Crude closed up $1.69 a barrel to $61.28. Gasoline jumped almost 11 cents a gallon to $1.79. Heating oil closed within a fraction of a cent of that price after jumping 6 cents a gallon.
Blame was laid on two tropical storms--Cindy, which has already hit shore and Dennis, which is roaring toward the offshore oil platforms in the Gulf and could grow to hurricane strength.
Both those storms were on the weather map yesterday, but traders did their best to ignore them even though crude oil was climbing. Today petroleum prices were too high to ignore.
The Dow's drop, to 10,270.68 was the index's third triple-digit decline in the last two weeks. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index fell 10 points to 1,194.94. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index also dropped 10 points, closing at 2,068.65.
Today the markets faced bad news from the opening bell. Major corporations announced layoffs of 111,000 workers in June, the biggest one-month tally in 17 months, reported Challenger Grey and Christmas, the Chicago job-placement service.
The tally tracks only major layoffs that are announced publicly, so it is not a scientific survey, but it is considered a reflection of job trends. What's special--and disturbing--about the latest report is not only the large number of job cuts, but also that summer is not usually the layoff season, so these layoffs really stand out.
Today's market losses wiped out the advances stocks made over the two previous sessions, which had encouraged hope that stocks are beginning to recover from their spring slump. Now it's going to take some significant economic event to turn the markets around, traders say, and nothing like that is in the forecast.