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Dow Pares Loss as ISM Gauge Pops Above 50

It was a rocky start to the second half for Wall Street as the market digested a $2 jump in oil prices and an encouraging reading on manufacturing.

The Dow industrials fell more than 100 points in the first few minutes of trading, plunging the blue-chip index back into bear-market territory, but pared its loss to about 25 points by the half-hour mark after the Institute for Supply Management's gauge of manufacturing activity popped above the key 50 mark-- which indicates growth -- in June, snapping four months of contraction.

The upturn proved to be a blip and the Dow quickly settled back into its slide.

A separate report showed construction spending fell 0.4 percent in May, slightly less than economists had expected.

Today's gyrations follow the worst first-half of the year since the first half of 1970 on Monday.

Here are a few market tea leaves to chew on today: The Dow industrials have risen on 15 of the last 18 July 1sts. That's not happening so far but with this fickle market, anything is possible by the closing bell. And then there's the "Thursday syndrome" as explained by UBS floor manager Art Cashin last week: A huge sell-off on a Thursday followed by a couple days of volatile trading and then capitulation on Tuesday, with a reversal in the afternoon.

Some analysts are saying a big-volume selloff might actually benefit the marketas it would finally show a bottom and investors would take heart to start buying again.

Stick around. Things could get interesting!

Asian stocks closed lower. European stocks were lower in afternoon trading as fears of rising oil prices and worries over the fate of banks continued to weigh on the market.

Light, sweet crude shot up more than $2, trading around $142 to $143 a barrel.

Disputes on whether the rise in oil prices is caused by supply and demand fundamentals continued, with famous investor Wilbur Ross telling CNBC that the dramatic rise in the price is a bubbleand there is no apparent problem with the supply of crude.

But the heads of major oil companies countered the statements that speculation was driving the price, saying supply was a problem.

survived another round of rumors. Watching the investment bank struggle under the attack of short sellers and rumor mongers has felt a little like watching the National Geographic Channel in recent months. Already beaten down, the stock tumbled 11 percent on Monday amid rumors that the brokerage would face an inevitable sale a la Bear Stearns. But shares rebounded 5 percent today, trading above $20 a share, after Morgan Stanley recommended late Monday that investors buy Lehman shares and slapped a $31 price target on the stock.

Among the few brave souls to recommend buying into financials these days, one name that comes up repeatedly is JPMorgan Chase. And, the proof was in the numbers: JPM underwrote more than $147 billion dollars globally in the second quarter, leading Wall Street in the category, according to data from ThomsonReuters data. Citigroup, however, led in terms of fees.

In Europe, Swiss bank UBS, the continent's biggest casualty of the subprime crisis, introduced new corporate governance measures on Tuesday, including a clear separation of the responsibilities of the board of directors and executive management. But that wasn't enough for investors, as fears of more writedowns pushed shares down 6.9 percent in Switzerland. ADRs of UBS shed 4 percent at the open in the U.S.

In merger and acquisition news, Belgian brewer InBev continued its courtship for Anheuser-Busch , saying it held to its existing price of $65 per share in cash because it represented the full and fair value of the company despite weak stock markets.

This Week:

TUESDAY: Auto sales; ISM manufacturing index; construction spending; Fed's Lockhart speaks; Earnings from Apollo Group after the bell
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; factory orders; crude inventories; earnings from Family Dollar
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, Jobs report, ISM services index; Stock market closes at 1pm ET and bond market closes at 2pm ET
FRIDAY: All major U.S. markets closed for Fourth of July holiday

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.