- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street rallied yesterday after Hurricane Katrina weakened, easing concerns about refinery outages along the Gulf of Mexico and pulling oil prices back from record highs.

Stocks opened lower but quickly rebounded as crude-oil futures cooled after surging past $70 a barrel in early trading on news that the storm shut down about 8 percent of U.S. refining capacity. A barrel of light crude settled at $67.20, up $1.20 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Investors found some relief in reports that President Bush was mulling whether to offset the supply disruption with oil from the nation’s petroleum reserve, but energy and insurance stocks still came under pressure as the market tried to gauge the hurricane’s financial effect.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 65.76, or 0.63 percent, to close at 10,463.05. Last Friday, the Dow had its lowest close in seven weeks.

The broader stock indicators also moved higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 7.18, or 0.6 percent, to 1,212.28, and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 16.88, or 0.80 percent, to 2,137.65.

While declining issues outpaced advancers through most of the session, the market shifted in afternoon trading and finished with advancers leading decliners by 5 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange. NYSE volume of 1.22 billion shares compared with 1.19 billion traded Friday.

Bonds closed higher, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.17 percent from 4.19 percent Friday. The U.S. dollar was mixed against other major currencies in European trading, while gold prices slipped.

Much of Wall Street’s advance came late in the day, when the hurricane eventually diminished to a Category 1 storm. With Katrina passing through the heart of the United States’ oil and gas infrastructure, the market weighed a spike in energy prices against the potential for long-term production outages. The storm forced the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port — the nation’s largest import terminal — to evacuate workers and stop unloading ships over the weekend.

Exxon Mobil Corp. gained as much as 83 cents in morning activity but ended the day up a penny at $58.42, while Chevron Corp. rose 13 cents to $59.51 and BP PLC added 23 cents to $66.35. Offshore-drilling contractor Halliburton Co. jumped 54 cents to $57.80.

Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Cos. also advanced on optimism that consumers spent more at the home-improvement stores as they readied for the hurricane, and that they’d be buying materials to repair storm damage. Home Depot climbed 73 cents to $40.54, and Lowe’s rose $1.42 to $64.60.

However, insurance stocks took a hit after early projections pegged storm losses between $9 billion and $16 billion, which would rank Katrina among the nation’s most costly storms.

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