U.S. Stocks Close Lower as Spike In Crude Oil Rattles Market

Airlines, cruise lines and other companies in fuel-dependent industries dragged U.S. stocks lower Monday after an attack on Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil processing facility sent crude prices soaring.

The U.S. and international benchmarks for crude each vaulted more than 14% — that’s comparable to the 14.5% spike in oil on Aug. 6, 1990, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5% to break a streak of eight consecutive gains. The S&P 500, while down modestly, had its biggest decline in two weeks. American Airlines was the biggest decliner in the index.

Shares of oil producers jumped, while prices for Treasurys, gold and other investments seen as less risky rose.

The weekend attack halted production of 5.7 million barrels of crude a day, more than half of Saudi Arabia’s global daily exports and more than 5% of the world’s daily crude oil production.

The S&P 500 fell 9.43 points, or 0.3%, to 2,997.96. That’s the index’s largest loss since Sept. 3.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 142.70 points to 27,076.82. The Nasdaq lost 23.17 points, or 0.3%, to 8,153.54.

Small stocks in the Russell 2000 were better performers. The index rose 6.46 points, or 0.4%, to 1,584.60.

Major stock indexes in Europe also fell. Markets in Asia finished mixed.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil soared $8.05 to settle at $62.90 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, jumped $8.80 to close at $69.02 a barrel.

That helped energy stocks in the S&P 500 surge 3.3%. Marathon Oil gained 11.6%, Devon Energy jumped 12.2% and oilfield services provider Halliburton climbed 11%.

The spike in oil prices weighed on shares in airlines, whose operations can be hurt by any rise in the price of fuel.

American Airlines Group, which spent $3.7 billion on fuel and taxes in the first half of the year, dropped 7.3%. United Airlines slid 2.8%, and Delta Air Lines dropped 1.6%.

Prices for U.S. government bonds rose as investors moved into safer investments. Yields for bonds fall when their prices rise, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped to 1.85% from 1.90% late Friday. The yield on the two-year Treasury, which moves more on expectations for Fed policy, sank to 1.76% from 1.79%.

Gold, another investment seen as a safer place to park money, rose $12.20 to $1,503.10 per ounce.

Meanwhile, general Motors slumped 4.3% after more than 49,000 members of the United Auto Workers went on strike. It wasn’t clear how long the strike would last.

Small stocks once again did better than their larger rivals. The Russell 2000 is up nearly 7% since Sept. 4, while the big stocks in the S&P 500 are up only about 2%. If the trend lasts, it will mark a sharp turnaround from the last year, which saw big companies dominate their smaller rivals as worries about a possible recession pounded stocks seen as riskier investments.

In other commodities trading Monday, wholesale gasoline rose 20 cents to $1.75 per gallon. Heating oil climbed 20 cents to $2.08 per gallon. Natural gas rose 7 cents to $2.68 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Silver rose 46 cents to $17.90 per ounce and copper fell 6 cents to $2.62 per pound.

The dollar fell to 108.05 Japanese yen from 108.13 yen on Friday. The euro weakened to $1.1006 from $1.1068.