Stocks Finish Lower

Oil hovered near $70 a barrel as traders assessed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Stocks finished lower Tuesday, as the price of oil hovered around $70 a barrel, and gasoline futures shot up 20% near the end of the session, on worries that Hurricane Katrina damaged refineries. The retail sector was also broadly lower on concerns that the hurricane hurt revenue prospects for retailers in the coming quarter.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 50.23 points, or 0.48%, to 10,412.82. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 3.87 points, or 0.32%, moving to 1,208.41. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite dropped 7.89 points, or 0.37%, to 2,129.76.

Crude oil prices continued to flirt with the $70 a barrel mark throughout the session Tuesday, as energy companies assessed the extent of hurricane damage to rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The price of October futures settled up $2.61, at $69.81 a barrel.

U.S. chain store sales fell for the fourth consecutive week, down 0.3% in the week ending Aug. 27, and falling short of expectations. Higher oil prices were partly to blame, according to the report from ICSC-UBS. For the entire month of August, U.S. chain store sales were down 1.0%.

Meanwhile, U.S. consumer confidence headed higher. The confidence number was up to 105.6 in August, beating median expectations.

U.S. factory goods orders dropped 1.9% in July, a number that was less than expected after the 4.9% decline in durable goods orders. The inventory/shipments ratio was unchanged at 1.19.

In economic news later this week, the preliminary second-quarter GDP figure will be reported Wednesday, followed by Thursday's release of personal income figures for July and the ISM manufacturing index for August. The employment report for August is due out Friday.

In corporate news, Apple (AAPL ) has reached a deal with Cingular Wireless to offer a wireless version of its iTunes music downloading service using Motorola (MOT ) phones, according to several press reports.

Sprint Nextel (S ) announced plans to acquire an affiliate, Gulf Coast Wireless, in a $287.5 million deal, including the assumption of some debt. Sprint Nextel also announced it would acquire another affiliate, IWO Holdings, for about $427 million, including $208 million in debt.

Electronics Boutique (ELBO ) posted earnings per share of 14 cents in the second quarter, vs. 16 cents in the year ago quarter. Same-store sales rose 24%.

Later in the week, earnings reports are expected from jeweler Tiffany (TIF ) on Wednesday and tax preparation group H&R Block (HRB ) on Thursday.

Treasury Market

Treasury yields headed lower as traders looked for safety amid falling stock prices and surging oil. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note was at 4.14%.

World Markets

European stock markets finished mixed on Friday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was up 27.70 points, or 0.53%, to 5,255.80.

Germany's DAX index fell 20.52 points, or 0.43%, to 4,791.72.

In Paris, the CAC 40 index lost 4.61 points, or 0.11%, to 4,356.66.

Asian markets finished higher on Tuesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 143.31 points, or 1.16%, to 12,453.14.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose 85.25 points, or 0.57%, to 14,922.22.

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