- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) - Wall Street fell sharply Wednesday as oil prices rebounded, aggravating concerns that inflation may lead the world’s central banks to raise interest rates. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 160 points.

Investors have been uneasy about oil prices, which surged above $136 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after dropping a day earlier. Having breached $139 a barrel last week, record-high crude has increasingly posed both an inflationary risk and a threat to growth.

Energy Department data Wednesday showed that gasoline supplies grew last week but that crude oil inventories fell more than analysts expected. The weekly report suggested no let-up in U.S. energy demand, even as consumers adjust their budgets to accommodate $4-a-gallon gasoline.

Other data Wednesday that could tell investors how Americans are faring financially is the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, which provides readings on the U.S. economy by region.

In midmorning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 169.11, or 1.38 percent, to 12,120.65.

The biggest loser among the 30 Dow components Wednesday was Alcoa Inc., after a JPMorgan analyst said the aluminum producer is not planning to sell itself or spin off part of its business. Alcoa fell $2.80, or 6.5 percent, to $39.92.

Broader stock indicators also declined. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 16.40, or 1.21 percent, to 1,342.04, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 33.48, or 1.37 percent, to 2,415.46.

The stock market finished mostly lower on Tuesday on inflation-related jitters.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 4.07 percent from 4.11 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar slipped against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

In addition to the Fed’s Beige Book, investors will be paying attention to a speech Wednesday by Fed Governor Donald Kohn.

In corporate news, Corporate Express NV, the Dutch office supplies distributor, accepted a sweetened $2.7 billion buyout bid from U.S. office supplies retailer Staples Inc. Staples rose $1.11, or 4.8 percent, to $24.26.

The Russell 2000 index fell 8.43, or 1.15 percent, to 1,538.52.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 3 to 1 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where volume came to 327.6 million shares.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei 225 average closed 1.16 percent higher. In afternoon trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 index fell 0.42 percent, Germany’s DAX 30 index fell 0.27 percent, and the French CAC-40 index fell 0.47 percent.

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