By Michael J. Martinez
NEW YORK — Oil worries and economic uncertainties plagued Wall Street yesterday, sending stocks lower as investors collected profits after the strong gains of the previous two sessions. Oil prices edged higher after a report said 60 percent of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico remains shut since Hurricane Katrina.
But the inventory report from the Energy Department showed that U.S. oil and gasoline stockpiles fell less than Wall Street expected. A barrel of light crude settled at $64.49, up 12 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Investors were concerned that corporate earnings and consumer spending would drop because of energy costs. Investors also worried that on Sept. 20, the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates again.
Investors' preoccupation with oil and interest rates let them look past a surprising drop in first-time jobless claims. The Labor Department reported the number of new unemployment claims fell to 319,000 last week, 1,000 less than the prior week. More claims, however, are expected in the coming weeks from workers displaced by the Gulf Coast disaster.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by more than 5 to 3 on the Big Board, where consolidated volume came to 1.99 billion shares, compared with 2.11 billion on Wednesday.
The Russell 2000 index fell 3.85, or 0.57 percent, to 673.47.
Bonds held steady after two sessions of selling. The dollar was mixed against most major currencies. Gold prices rose.