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News >  Business

Rate worries, oil prices sink Dow

Associated Press

Volatile oil prices and a weak dollar sent stocks plunging Wednesday as the prospect of inflation and rising interest rates sank in on Wall Street. Yields on long-dated Treasuries surged to an eight-month high and the Dow Jones industrial average skidded 107 points.

A gradual acceleration of inflation and a rally in commodities have made investors increasingly nervous about stocks, as many on Wall Street predict a slowdown in corporate profits for 2005. Those concerns were in high relief Wednesday as the feeble dollar and bearish bond market combined with a rise in gold and oil prices to create a storm of selling.

“Profit margins have peaked, inflation is on the way up, and those aren’t generally good things for stocks,” said John Caldwell, chief investment strategist for McDonald Financial Group, part of Cleveland-based KeyCorp. “So weakness in the bond market on top of that tends to make people skittish. … It just makes people question their thinking that much more.”

The Dow closed down 107.00, or 0.98 percent, at 10,805.62, diminishing hopes that the index would soon break the 11,000 mark for the first time in nearly four years.

The broader gauges also slid. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index declined 12.42, or 1.02 percent, to 1,207.01. The Nasdaq composite index fell 12.26, or 0.59 percent, to 2,061.29.

Oil futures came within 2 cents of their all-time intraday high, but fell back late in the session, settling up just 6 cents at $54.65 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Weekly government data showed a larger-than-expected rise in domestic crude inventories, but declines in supplies of gasoline and distillate fuel, which includes heating oil. Some traders had speculated that oil prices would climb higher still amid supply concerns and as cold weather caused shudders in the Northeast. Energy stocks finished sharply lower, however, with the AMEX Oil Index dropping 2.62 percent.

It was also a challenging day on the bond market, as the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to its highest level since July, settling at 4.51 percent, up from 4.39 percent late Tuesday. The selling stepped up after the Federal Reserve released its survey of business conditions, known as the Beige Book, which suggested inflation may be starting to rise.

Decliners outnumbered advancing issues by more than 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average added 0.67 percent. In Europe, France’s CAC-40 shed 0.46 percent, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.30 percent and Germany’s DAX index declined 0.48 percent.

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