Wall Street went on hurricane watch again today, hunkering down as a storm surge from Tropical Storm Rita sent crude oil and gasoline prices soaring and pushed the price of natural gas to an all-time high.
Petroleum-producing platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were evacuated again as Rita headed for the Florida Keys, picking up power and threatening to become a full-fledged hurricane.
With output of Gulf wells still suffering from Katrina's damage, the mere possibility of another disruptive storm was enough to reignite the futures markets where speculators try to predict the price of petroleum products.
Crude oil jumped more than $4 a barrel--its biggest one-day gain ever--at the threat of another storm-induced shortage. By the close of regular trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude was trading for $67.39 a barrel, up $4.39; heating oil was up 20 cents a gallon; and gasoline had gained 26 cents a gallon
Natural gas prices jumped 14 percent to a record $12.66 per million British thermal units--the energy content that is used to measure gases.
Lead by petroleum products, an index of commodity prices showed its biggest jump in 31 years. The Reuters/Jefferies CRB index, which tracks prices of 31 raw materials, increased by 3.8 percent.
Predictably, stock prices plummeted in response to the rapid rebound in fuel prices, which had been moving steadily downward for the last month.
The Dow Jones industrial average gave back the big gain it scored Friday, falling 84 points to 10,557.63.
The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index dropped 15 points to 2,145.26.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index slid seven points to 1,231.02.