Stocks snapped a three-day winning streak and volume fell to the lowest of the year. Continued concerns over fighting in Libya and Japan’s earthquake aftermath kept stocks in a narrow range.
U.S. crude oil rose more than $2 a barrel as unrest in North Africa and the Middle East threatened to further crimp energy exports. Crude closed in New York at more than $104 a barrel.
Independent crude oil trader Remy Wagmen said:
“Certainly Libya is in the forefront of every trader’s mind. And there was a report that came out in the afternoon around noon-ish that said some fighting had picked up in the areas and that exports which are already, have been halted, but you know could be halted for longer, so just the jittery feeling coming out of the whole Middle East is making traders play it from the long side, you know propelling the market up a little bit”
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Those high oil prices along with the crisis in Japan are threatening to derail the airline industry’s recovery from the 2008-2009 economic downturn. Delta estimates its fuel bill will rise 35% this year. It’s among many carriers cutting back on capacity as well.
In the biggest Wall Street insider trading case in decades, a former Intel executive testified he shared company secrets with hedge fund founder, Raj Rajaratnam. He says he tipped off his close friend because Rajaratnam had helped him financially.
In Europe, British inflation surged to a 28-month high of 4.4% last month. That’s reviving speculation the Bank of England may hike interest rates. All the major European indexes closed lower.
In the US, stocks posted modest losses in the three major indexes.
Bottom Line: Wall Street snaps 3-day winning streak; Crude tops $104 on concerns about fighting in Libya and Yemen; Delta forecast big jump in fuel prices; Former Intel executive admits passing secrets to accused hedge fund founder, Rajaratnam.