Crude oil tops $101; stocks end day unchanged

Oil moves higher as Iran threatens again to block the Strait of Hormuz. Sears shares fall 27% on news it will close 100 to 120 stores because of poor sales. Consumer confidence rises. Stocks are ending 2011 about flat.

By Charley Blaine Dec 27, 2011 2:08PM
Charley BlaineUpdated: 7:59 p.m. ET

Stocks started the last four days of a volatile year going nowhere.

It probably doesn't mean much. The week between Christmas and New Year's typically commands light volume because many big money managers take the week off. Today's volume -- less than 500 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange and roughly 960 million on Nasdaq -- looks to be the lightest of the year.

An increase in consumer confidence was offset by crude oil (-CL) topping $101 a barrel after Iran threatened again to block the Strait of Hormuz if oil sanctions are applied. Gold (-GC), however, was lower.

Meanwhile, a report showed home prices in 20 major markets fell more than expected in October from a year earlier. And shares of Sears Holdings (SHLD) were down $12.47 to $33.38 after the company said it would shut 100 to 120 Sears and Kmart stores -- about 5% of the total -- as the struggling retailer reported fewer sales during the all-important holiday season.

The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) gave up a 34-point gain and finished down 3 points to 12,291. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) was flat at 1,265, and the Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) gained 7 points to 2,625.

Article continues below.
Bank stocks, especially those of the largest banks, ended lower.

A second reason was that bank stocks have been such dogs in 2011 that many investors are selling this week to lock in tax losses.

The market heads into the last week of the year with the Dow up about 6.3%, its smallest gain annual since 2007. (There was, of course, the 2008 crash, that pushed the blue chips down 33.8%.)

Perhaps the most telling point about the market is the S&P 500's change for the year. As of today's s close, the index was up 0.6% for the year. That's the smallest change in a year, positive or negative, since 1970. The Nasdaq is off 1% for the year, its smallest positive or negative change since 2005.

The modest change for most indexes doesn't begin to tell the story of the year: big gains, followed by ugly sell-offs, followed by recoveries.

The market peaked on April 29, with the Dow up 7.1%, the S&P 500 up 8.2% and the Nasdaq off 10.7%. That rally was followed by worries about the economy, an ugly fight over the federal budget that resulted in a downgrade of U.S. debt by Standard & Poor's 500, and nonstop worries about Europe.

The market bottomed on Oct. 3, with the Dow off 8% for the year, the S&P 500 off 12.6% and the Nasdaq down 12%. The Dow is up 15.5% since then, with the S&P 500 gaining 15.3% and the Nasdaq rising 12.4%.

The market has been led by utility, consumer staples and health care stocks, although Cabot Oil & Gas (COG) and El Paso (EP) have been the top S&P 500 stocks this year.

The laggards have been financial stocks, down more than 17%. Bank of America (BAC), down 59% this year, has been the worst Dow stock and sixth-worst among S&P 500 stocks. Goldman Sachs (GS), down 45%, is the 20th-worst performer in the S&P 500.

On Wednesday, the market will face a weekly report on mortgage applications. Futures trading suggests a modestly lower open.

Crude oil moves up on Iranian threat
Crude oil settled up $1.66 to $101.47 a barrel on Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi's comment that his country would block the Strait of Hormuz if oil sanctions are applied against his country. Brent crude was up $1.06 to $109.02 a barrel.

The sanctions are among actions being considered as the United Nations considers how to get Iran to halt its nuclear development program. The big worry is that Iran is not building nuclear capacity to supply electricity, as it insists, but for nuclear weapons instead.

The national retail price of gasoline was $3.231, up from $3.213 a week ago, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge report, and up 5.1% for the year.

Energy stocks were mixed. Exxon Mobil (XOM) was up 6 cents to $85.28. Chevron (CVX) was up 48 cents to $107.98.

Gold, however, settled down $10.50 to $1,595.50 an ounce after dropping to as low as $1,591.10. Silver (-SI) was off 22.1 cents  to $28.763 an ounce. Copper (-HG) was off 6.1 cents to $3.409 a pound.

Energy prices -- New York close



Tues.

Fri.

Month chg.

YTD chg.
Crude oil (-CL)

$101.34

$99.68

0.98%

10.90%
(per barrel)











Heating oil (-HO)

$2.9159

$2.8995

-3.61%

14.63%
(per gallon)











Natural gas (-NG)

$3.1120

$3.1140

-12.34%

-29.35%
(per mil. BTU)











Unleaded gasoline (-RB)

$2.6810

$2.6781

4.79%

9.29%
(per gallon)











Brent crude 

$109.27

$107.96

-1.36%

15.06%
(per barrel)











Retail gasoline

$3.2310

$3.2310

-1.94%

5.18%
(per gallon; AAA)











U.S. financial markets were closed Monday for Christmas.






A cheery consumer -- at least through the holidays
As the holidays approached, consumers were feeling better about their prospects.

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index surged to 64.5 in December from 55.2 in November. Economists had expected a reading of 58. It was the highest reading in eight months.

The index -- along with the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index -- is watched closely as an indicator of future consumer spending. The Michigan index also has been moving higher.

The Conference Board’s confidence data showed a measure of present conditions increased to the highest level since September 2008. The measure of expectations for the next six months also climbed.

The share of consumers saying jobs were plentiful rose to the highest since January 2009, while those saying employment was hard to get decreased to the lowest since the same month.


The S&P/Case-Shiller index of home values in cities dropped 3.4% from October 2010 after decreasing 3.5% in the year ended in September. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had projected a 3.2% decline.

The real-estate market is bracing for another wave of foreclosures that pressure home prices, indicating that any housing recovery will take time to develop. Nonetheless, rising builder confidence, a pickup in construction and fewer unsold new properties for sale are among signs the industry that triggered the last recession is steadying. 


Techs see some gains
The Nasdaq and the Nasdaq-100 ($NDX) were the market's leaders, thanks to gains for Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), Cisco (CSCO) and, dare we say it, ResearchIn Motion (RIMM), up 95 cents to $14.87.


Semiconductor stocks were down slightly.


Apple was up $3.20 to $406.53 because of speculation that the iPad 3 will be introduced in late winter or early spring, with a new iPhone 5 due in February with an Apple television due in the fall.


"Steve Jobs’ hands are all over it," Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster told CNBC today. The product will be watched closely as the first major product launch following the Oct. 5 death of the company’s visionary leader.


The Nasdaq-100 finished up 6 points to 2,293.


Sears prospects look dicey

There's a good reason that Sears Holdings is closing 100 to 120 of its almost 2,200 Kmart and Sears stores. Sales struggled in the third quarter. Same-store sales dropped 5.2% in the third quarter, the company said. Sears aims to reduce expenses and change its business model, said CEO Lou D’Ambrosio. 


The larger question is whether the company can fix its Sears and Kmart stores. Sales have fallen every quarter for the last four years as its stores have lost market share to rivals like Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) and Target (TGT).


Sears said today that same-store sales are down 5.2% so far in the current quarter, including a 6% sales decline at domestic namesake stores.

Casino stocks jump

Casino stocks surged after a Justice Department opinion may have opened the doors to more online gambling run by states.


Wynn Resorts (WYNN) rose $3.53 to $113.53; MGM International (MGM) added 46 cents to $10.42. Boyd Gaming (BYD) rose  68 cents to $7.63.


On Friday, the Justice Department appeared to reverse its previous position on Internet gambling, when it said federal law doesn't cover online betting that's not related to sporting events. The immediate effect may well be that the online sale of lottery tickets within a state does not violate federal law.


It may lead to full federal regulation of online gaming.


GE buys MetLife's bank; Mead Johnson says Enfamil has no bacteria

General Electric's (GE) GE Capital will acquire the depository business of MetLife Bank (MET) in a deal worth about $7.5 billion. The deal is part of MetLife’s plan to move away from being a bank holding company. MetLife was up 10 cents  to $31.20. GE was down 22 cents to $18.01.

Mead Johnson Nutrition (MJN) rose $3.79 to $69.08. The maker of Enfamil baby formula called it safe, saying tests it conducted on samples of the formula tied to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration probe found no presence of bacteria.


Luxury homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV) fell 10 cents to $1.32. Its shares may fall further as it struggles to generate cash and make interest payments, Barron’s reported.

Parlux Fragrances (PARL) gained $2.47 to $5.94, the top performer among Nasdaq stocks. The maker of Queen Latifah and Paris Hilton fragrances agreed to be purchased by Perfumania Holdings (PERF) for about $170 million in cash and stock. Perfumania declined $6.47 to $13.23. 


Short hits from the markets -- New York close



Tues.

Fri.

Month chg.

YTD chg.
Treasury yields











13-week Treasury bill

0.0500%

0.030%

400.00%

-58.33%
5-year Treasury note 

0.968%

0.984%

1.68%

-51.98%
10-year Treasury note

2.009%

2.030%

-2.85%

-39.21%
30-year Treasury bond

3.039%

3.064%

-0.75%

-30.33%
Currencies











U.S. Dollar Index

80.135

80.236

2.09%

1.07%
British pound

1.5681

1.5625

-0.02%

0.49%
(in U.S. $)











U.S. $ in pounds

£0.638

£0.640

0.02%

-0.48%
Euro in dollars

$1.31

$1.31

-2.72%

-2.28%
(in U.S. $)











U.S. $ in euros

€ 0.765

€ 0.766

2.80%

2.33%
U.S. $ in yen 

78.00

77.99

0.23%

-4.13%
U.S. $ in Chinese

6.35

6.32

-0.69%

-4.07%
yuan











Canada dollar

$0.982

$0.000

0.09%

-2.13%
(in U.S. $)











U.S. dollar 

$1.019

$1.019

-0.09%

2.18%
(in Canadian $)











Commodities

 

 

 

 
Gold (-GC)

$1,595.50

$1,606.00

-8.84%

12.25%
(per troy ounce)











Copper (-HG)

$3.409

$3.4695

-4.66%

-23.34%
(per pound)











Silver (-SI)

$28.7400

$29.084

-12.39%

-7.10%
(per troy ounce)











Wheat (-ZW)

$6.4460

$6.2200

5.01%

-18.82%
(per bushel)











Corn (-ZC)

$6.3325

$6.20

4.15%

1.73%
(per bushel)











Cotton 

$0.8780

0.8699

-3.42%

-39.37%
(per pound)











Coffee

$2.2285

2.1965

-5.93%

-7.34%
(per pound)











Crude oil (-CL)

$101.34

$99.68

0.98%

10.90%
(per barrel)










 
U.S. financial markets were closed Monday for Christmas.
87Comments
Dec 27, 2011 2:39PM
avatar

A gain in consumer confidence was offset by crude oil topping $101 a barrel after Iran threatened again to block the Strait of Hormuz if oil sanctions are applied. Gold was lower, however.

 

Hummmmmm that Keystone pipeline is looking better and better BHO

Dec 27, 2011 3:20PM
avatar

this is how it's always been.  oil-wheat-cattle, etc.  there is no changing it.  only living with it.  drive less.  drive higher MPG cars.  eat less.  government will not stop it

 

It really amazes me what oil traders and speculators are allowed to get away with on Wall Street. Prices have nothing to do with supply and demand, it is all speculation. There will always be threats from other countries, but is it justified to hike prices for things that may never take place? They do because they can get away with it as they answer to nobody. There is nothing right now to justify crude oil at $101 dollars a barrel. All they are doing is screwing the comsumer and making big oil and themselves richer. This may not seem like a big deal right now people as gas prices have come down some, but believe me it will be an issue when they skyrocket once again. Demand is still weak and we have plenty of oil, but this is just another excuse with Iran for the traders to jack it up some more. This will continue until something is done to slow them down. Call your representatives in Congress and tell them to support stiffer regulations on oil traders and speculators or have crude oil taken out of the commodity market. If not, we all will pay dearly once again because of Trader Greed.
Dec 27, 2011 3:56PM
avatar

Quoted text:

Crude oil moved up to $101.47 a barrel on Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi's comment that his country would block the Strait of Hormuz if oil sanctions are applied against his country.

 

It doesn't really matter what the topic will be to jack up OIL prices...it could be Sunny & 72 degrees with total peace on Earth & these jerks on Wall Street will raise the price because they CAN & WILL & Government will not step in to control these money rapists!!!  It just sounds better or justifies it if Wall Street can blame it on something else like the quoted text.

Dec 27, 2011 3:35PM
avatar

...and there it is...oil tops $101/barrel.  I called this a month ago.  In just a few days, gas will be $3.50/gallon or better.  Do you think you were played by big oil over the holiday shopping season? lulled into a false sense of security with cheap gas ?  Bought that new car that only gets 18/mpg  because you thought gas was coming down?  FOOLS!!!!

Dec 27, 2011 2:55PM
avatar
Well the spending for Christmas is over, time to get it stuck it up the ol'poop chute with the oil speculators. Fear will run it up. They got their Christmas stock payouts from Christmas spending so its time to look elsewhere for profits on the floor.

 Is this truly any surprise to anyone with the way its been going the last few years?
Dec 27, 2011 4:27PM
avatar
Iran threatened again to block the Strait of Hormuz

Let them go right ahead.  We need to get this thing over with anyway.  All we need is

a good excuse and this just might be it.  This plus 9/11 should equal the end of our

problems in the middle east.  If we don't want to take the job, then farm it out to Isreal.

I'm sure there itching for a fight.

Dec 27, 2011 3:45PM
avatar
Oil should be at $65 dollars a bar and Gas should be at $2.85 per gal...anything above that is armed robbery!
Dec 27, 2011 3:14PM
avatar
It really amazes me what oil traders and speculators are allowed to get away with on Wall Street. Prices have nothing to do with supply and demand, it is all speculation. There will always be threats from other countries, but is it justified to hike prices for things that may never take place? They do because they can get away with it as they answer to nobody. There is nothing right now to justify crude oil at $101 dollars a barrel. All they are doing is screwing the comsumer and making big oil and themselves richer. This may not seem like a big deal right now people as gas prices have come down some, but believe me it will be an issue when they skyrocket once again. Demand is still weak and we have plenty of oil, but this is just another excuse with Iran for the traders to jack it up some more. This will continue until something is done to slow them down. Call your representatives in Congress and tell them to support stiffer regulations on oil traders and speculators or have crude oil taken out of the commodity market. If not, we all will pay dearly once again because of Trader Greed.
Dec 27, 2011 5:32PM
avatar
Today it's Iran & Sears...tomorrow it will be a one legged goat in Tibet is eaten by a Yeti as villagers watch in awe...the next day it will be a decision by the FDA to decree that gummie bears as a narcotic and cannot be obtained without a doctors prescription - never-ending BS from the "owners" of America...
Dec 27, 2011 4:37PM
avatar
I sent a proposal to the White House, via email, a few months ago.  I suggested that they take oil off of the commodity market so it can't be manipulated by speculators.  OPEC has stated that they are happy if oil is $80 a barrel.  So, negotiate oil for $80 a barrel for 2 years.  Gasoline would drop to around $2.50 or so.   The government would have an oversight committee to make sure the price of gas does not go up.  Even a variation of this idea would be better than getting screwed by  Wall St. and big oil.
----------------
I don't know that the White House has the power to enact this type of change.  This may be more in the realm of Congress/Senate, and we know how reliable those groups are.
Dec 27, 2011 3:33PM
avatar

The speculators are at it again. I think the Gov is going to shut them down for good. They need to set it up so that we buy and sell at the days price not at a speculated price.

The speculators need to have to buy at the price they jack it up to. Th strait(HORMUZ) they are talking about closing won't affect it at all. Down with the speculators and the hedge funds. They are all CROOKS!!!!!

I hope they lose it alll!!!!

Dec 27, 2011 3:05PM
avatar
Well, between now and Nov 2012 prepare for a constant barrage of propaganda about the economy all meant to manipulate sentiment one way or the other.  Prepare for crisis headlines that drive small investors out of the market in panic (visions of 2008 dancing in their heads)  while GS and others gobble up cheap shares. Then the inevitable "everything is now great"  "hope for Europe" blah blah blah to drive the markets back up and dump those cheap shares, while harvesting the next crop of suckers who buy at or near the "new" tops.  False data purveyors put out highly fictionalized  unemployment or inflation rates and their media lackeys sell the drivel because that's how they make a living.  The Christmas binge is over and now reality sets back in along with the maxed out credit cards on tight monthly budgets.   Soon holiday extra help layoffs will swell the UIB stats, jaded as they are, and with housing flat as a pancake, construction other then roads will be in short supply. Oh, and by the way, all that fighting about cutting the deficit - not a dime was actually cut out of the budget that passed and gov't spending increased as usual. Pass the kool aid, I wanna check out till after the election..   
Dec 27, 2011 4:34PM
avatar
I sent a proposal to the White House, via email, a few months ago.  I suggested that they take oil off of the commodity market so it can't be manipulated by speculators.  OPEC has stated that they are happy if oil is $80 a barrel.  So, negotiate oil for $80 a barrel for 2 years.  Gasoline would drop to around $2.50 or so.   The government would have an oversight committee to make sure the price of gas does not go up.  Even a variation of this idea would be better than getting screwed by  Wall St. and big oil.
Dec 27, 2011 4:55PM
avatar

Reported on 12/20/2011 - After Holiday trips have come to end this year, the average American will have spent $4,115 this year filling up. Gas averaged $3.50/gal. Over the past decade, gas has taken up 5.7 percent of the family budget. This increase is the highest in 30years.

If oil and gas prices could be reeled in to a reasonable level, you'd see the economy rebound quickly.  This is not rocket science, and everyone recognizes it, but nothing is done. Greed is the problem.

Dec 27, 2011 3:35PM
avatar

simply one more reason to F the middle east and get out of there! 

 

but we will never leave.  too much money involved there

 

Iran threatened again to block the Strait of Hormuz
So the world will stand by and do nothing?  Don't think so.  Welcome to WWIII.  I'm building a underground bunker.  Those old missile silos look pretty good now.
Dec 27, 2011 5:29PM
avatar
Trust me, every MPG that the auto manufacturers increase in their vehicles the more that Oil and Gas prices will go up?  They are not going to lose their profit margin due to Better MPG ratings.  Remember the Oil Companies want to keep their stockholders happy!  As they say Wall Street affects the price of Oil and Gas every day of the year!!!
Dec 27, 2011 5:07PM
avatar
Like I said 2 weeks ago.................​just wait until February, we will all see what a mess our economy is in and how we have been deceived in these articles!
Dec 27, 2011 3:26PM
avatar
Not with a bang but a whimper
T.S. Eliot knew the future of man.
Dec 27, 2011 2:57PM
avatar
Hey Obama just asked for another 1.2 trillion in money to raise the debt ceiling. When will the people under 40 realize they are the ones that will have to pay this back!!. Or maybe they are wishing that they won't have to pay it back like some student loans. Welcome to Oz!! Or in today's terms--Greece! Who cares? just listen to your ipods and play video games.
But maybe we can just stiff the Chinese.


Dec 27, 2011 3:06PM
avatar

mr. franks"

 

my son is 33 married and has 1 child, rents my home and i tell hime that the reason i did what i did is so you can save money, they spend all their money on crap, ipod's and games. yep everything i own is going to my granddaughter, and she can't touch it till she is 28 or 30 haven't made up my mind yet, hopefully this will support her in case of emergency in this country. i also am hopeing to buy a home way the hell up in the north woods to keep away from problems.

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[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market capped the trading week with losses across the major averages. The S&P 500 fell 0.5% to surrender its weekly gain, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (-0.7%) and Russell 2000 (-0.9%) underperformed. The two indices posted respective losses of 0.8% and 0.6% for the week.

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