Investors who were looking for a "relief rally" today on Wall Street were disappointed as stocks struggled to produce no more than a sigh.
Paying little attention to a fresh prediction that gains are on the horizon, the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index closed a fraction of a point higher at 1,215.63.
The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index gained five points to 2,121.46 and the Dow Jones industrial average advanced 24 points to 10,443.63.
Nor was there anything to cheer about in the energy markets, where crude oil, gasoline, heating oil and natural gas prices continued to climb even though the energy industry dodged the worst of Hurricane Rita's wrath.
All offshore petroleum production and most refineries remained shut today, even though the storm did far less damage than feared.
Some refineries began the start-up process today, but it takes several days to get the complex facilities back up to speed.
The delays will cause a pinch in the pipeline that could push prices even higher and lead to shortages.
In today's trading, crude oil futures rose $1.63 a barrel to $65.82, heating oil climbed 11 cents a gallon to $2.05 and gasoline futures jumped 4 cents a gallon to $2.13 -- a wholesale price that does not include taxes.
The rising petroleum prices cut off hope that traders would do some heavy buying today out of relief that Rita was neither as deadly nor as damaging as forecasters had predicted.
Stocks seemed to be following that scenario, but as oil prices climbed during the day, the stock market lost its momentum.
Retail stocks still are suffering from fear that higher fuel prices will swamp family budgets and cut consumer spending. There were also worries today about a consumer confidence survey due Tuesday morning, which is expected be very negative.
Homebuilding stocks also traced an up-and-down pattern during the day. They rose in the morning on a report that sales of existing homes surged in August, then sank when Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan expressed concern about speculation in the housing market.
Although Greenspan said he believes most homeowners have enough equity in their houses to handle a downturn in the market, he warned that a slowing housing market would have broad impact on the economy.