Oil supply jitters sent stocks skidding Monday (June 5) after Iran’s threat to cut its petroleum exports pushed crude prices to near $73 a barrel, according to an Associated Press report.
The Dow Jones industrial average was further impacted – down 199 points at closing – as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s fresh warnings on inflation added to investors’ worries.
Iran warned it would curtail distribution if Western nations punish or attack the country over its nuclear arms program, unnerving a market already concerned that severe hurricane activity could devastate Gulf Coast refineries again this summer. A barrel of light crude gained 62 cents to $72.95 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Bernanke told an international monetary conference that while the economy is slowing down, due in part to energy costs, inflation remains a concern and the Fed would remain vigilant on rates. That in turn has Wall Street worried about higher rates in a slowing economy – which would clamp down on any chances for stocks to move higher.
“It looks like a very mixed market; even within sectors, everything is mixed,” said Steve Neimeth, senior vice president and portfolio manager at AIG SunAmerica. “With continued evidence that the economy is slowing and higher risk due to oil prices, the market has become increasingly skittish.”
Persistently high oil and gasoline prices have put more strain on consumers as lending rates continue rising and home values stabilize, the combination of which is feared to trigger a downturn. Consumer confidence readings later this month will be a critical aspect of the economic picture, said Scott Fullman, chief investment strategist for Hapoalim Securities USA.
“This concern over oil is really the driving force of the market,” Fullman said. “We’re coming into vacation season. (Energy prices) are going to play an awful lot on how consumers will be spending their money this summer.”