Hurricanes blew 222 points off the Dow Jones industrial average this week as cautious investors tried to protect themselves from the economic damage done by the storms.
Today, with so much uncertainty about where Hurricane Rita will hit and how much damage it will do, traders played it safe by staying on the sidelines and leaving prices where they were.
The Dow closed two points lower at 10,419.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index was up a fraction of a point at 1,215.29. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index gained six points to 2,116.84.
But for all the indexes it was a bad week--the worst since the end of June for the Dow and the S&P 500, which fell 22 points. The Nasdaq composite's 43.5 point loss was its worst since mid-April.
Weather forecasts alone took down stocks, because by the closing bell Friday, Rita's only real impact was on the offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico--many of which were still out of service from Katrina.
Offshore oil production is pretty much shut down as are all the refineries scattered along the Gulf Coast. Even the pipeline that supplies gasoline to the Washington area was cut off as a precaution.
Still several oil stocks hit record highs earlier in the week as crude oil and gasoline prices rose in advance of the storm. Oil stocks retreated along with prices Friday when it appeared Rita would not score a direct hit on the Gulf refinery belt.
Basically, however, the stock and energy markets have been hunkered down for the last two days. Stock traders have taken their losses. Oil traders have protected their profits. Now it's up to Rita to decide where those markets go next.