Stocks held their ground today as cautious traders decided they have done enough selling already this week to protect themselves from Hurricane Rita.
Even the crude oil market stayed calm as the giant storm slowly plodded toward the cluster of oil refineries that produce roughly a quarter of the nation's petroleum products.
Wholesale prices of gasoline and natural gas continued to climb, but crude slipped 20 cents a barrel to $66.60. Crude is not the problem this time. With the Strategic Petroleum Reserve open, there's plenty of raw material, but gasoline and other refined products could be in short supply because most Gulf Coast refineries have been shut down.
Even if the refineries in Rita's path escape unscathed, a week or more's output will be lost. Serious hits could take months to repair.
The wholesale price of gasoline climbed more than 7 cents a gallon to $2.13 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, which discussed staying open this weekend so traders could react immediately to Rita's landing.
Energy economists were warning that gasoline could spike to $4 a gallon if Rita causes extensive refinery damage. But today's wholesale price was far below the $2.92 a gallon that was reached right after Katrina hit.
Insurance company stocks continued to suffer, but the overall market climbed for the first time after four days of losses.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 44 points to 10,422.05.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index and the Nasdaq Stock Market composite index both gained more than four points, with the S&P closing at 1,214.62 and the Nasdaq composite at 2,110.78.