Oil Skids; Dow, Off 219, Follows

Weak data, contract expirations stoke selloff
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2008 3:36 PM CST
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in this undated file photo.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Stocks fell today as oil futures declined, the jobs picture remained grim, and two of the Detroit’s Big Three announced production stops due to lack of funds, MarketWatch reports. The imminent expiration of options and futures contracts also bedeviled the markets, and the Dow closed down 219.35 at 8,604.99. The Nasdaq fell 26.94 to close at 1,552.37, and the S&P 500 19.14 to 885.28.

Oil futures for January delivery, which also expire this week, plunged $3.84 to 4-year lows, at $36.67 a barrel, as traders anticipated continued falls in demand. The selloff was also stoked by traders who must unload their contracts rather than take possession of the actual oil. Chevron and Exxon fell 4.93% and 5.01%, respectively, exerting downward drag on the Dow. (Read more Dow Jones stories.)