NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It was an up-and-down day for stocks as cratering oil prices caused waves, though a last-minute rally pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average to another record close. Oil prices tumbled below $75 a barrel for the first time in four years on fears OPEC wouldn't inhibit its production in the face of a global supply glut.
Investors have been hoping OPEC will announce a cut in output when the collective countries meet in Venice on Nov. 27. However, Kuwaiti oil minister Ali Al-Omair has said the collective countries won't limit production. Also hurting oil prices, China released softer-than-expected factory forecasts, triggering fears its economy, the second-largest in the world, could see its weakest year in nearly a quarter of a century.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil for December delivery plunged 3.7% to $74.30.
Chevron (CVX) slipped 1%, Exxon Mobil (XOM) dropped 0.75% and Hess (HES) fell 1.7%. Oil and gas driller Helmerich & Payne (HP) tumbled 6.7%, the worst performer on the S&P, after quarterly earnings of $1.59 a share missed estimates by 9 cents.
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The S&P 500 added 0.05% and the Dow climbed 0.23%. The Nasdaq closed at its highest level since March 2000, up 0.11%. Small caps were among the hardest hit of the day with the small-cap index Russell 2000 down 0.84%. The VIX Volatility Index, commonly referred to as the "fear index," spiked 4.6%.
Poorly performing energy stocks overshadowed a bounce earlier in the trading day that was inspired by the latest jobs data. Jobless claims rose to 290,000, the highest since mid-September, compared to the 280,000 expected by economists. Though higher than expected, the number of U.S. citizens applying for unemployment benefits remains near its lowest level since 2000.
Job openings slipped slightly to 4.735 million in September from 4.835 million a month earlier, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary. Analysts expected 4.8 million openings. At current levels, job openings are the second highest, after August, since January 2001, providing further evidence of the labor market recovery.
Walmart (WMT) shares were the best performer of the Dow, up 4.7%, after the world's largest retailer reported comparable-store sales growth for the first time in seven quarters. The company had seen sluggish sales after the government cut food stamp benefits and the broader economy kept low-income customers from spending big.
Amazon (AMZN) ended its months-long feud with book publisher Hachette, a standoff resulting from disagreements in pricing and revenue cuts. The agreement will allow Hachette to decide upon e-book prices, with added incentives to keep prices low.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) agreed to buy Procter & Gamble's (PG) Duracell battery business in a deal that includes $1.7 billion in cash and about $4.7 billion in P&G stock currently held by the billionaire investor's holding company. P&G shares rose slightly.
Kohl's (KSS) fell 3.2% after the retail chain reported comparable-store sales down 1.8% in its quarter. J.C. Penney (JCP) shares were down 8.5% after the retail chain posted a quarterly net loss of 77 cents a share, narrower than forecasts, but on slowing sales.
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-- Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.