Energy Stocks Rise Amid Mideast Turmoil

Stocks declined Monday as many investors were still away on holiday in this typically low-volume week between Christmas and New Year's.

Dow Chemical shares tumbled more than 15 percent after Kuwait decided to scrap a $17.4 billion petrochemical joint-venture deal with Dow, dealing a heavy blow to Dow, the largest U.S. chemical company, which had planned to use the proceeds to repay a large part of its $13 billion debt from the acquisition of Rohm & Haas.

Retail stocks declined as early reports indicate U.S. holiday spending fell as much as 4 percent from last year, according to data from MasterCard Advisors. Talbot's and AnnTaylor were among the biggest decliners, though even Wal-Mart, the season's star, declined.

It was a sea of red on the board today but Apple was green as investors cheered its move to sell the iPhone in Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart celebrated the move, splashing a giant image of the iPhoneacross the top half of its home page. Despite the pre-Christmas rumors of a $99 price tag, the cheapest iPhone (8GB) is selling for $197. They also have a 16GB model for $297.

Hewlett-Packard shares also rose following a Barron's article that said the hardware and software company has a strong financial position that could help it gain market share during this downturn.

Meanwhile, H-P is looking to become a player in data warehousing, the New York Times reported.

Crude oilrose more than $1 a barrelamid worries about Mideast stability as Israeli warplanes pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for a third consecutive day.

That sent energy stocks higher, with ExxonMobil and Chevron among the top gainers on the Dow.

Bad news continued to trickle in Europe, especially in the banking and housing sectors.

Belgian banking and insurance group KBC expects a quarterly loss of 900 million euros ($1.28 billion) amid credit-portfolio writedowns, after Moody's Investors Service cut ratings, triggering a charge of 600 million euros and warning of a future charge of 300 million euros.

And in the real-estate sector, housing prices in England and Wales fell 8.7 percent in 2008, bringing the average price of a house to 159,900 pounds ($235,800), according to a monthly survey by property consultant Hometrack.

It was a painful year for sure, prompting many investors to wonder: Will the market bounce back in 2009?We hopped in our time machine to look for clues in the years after the 1929 crash.

This Week:

TUESDAY: Case-Shiller home-price index; consumer confidence
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; jobless claims; weekly crude and natural-gas inventories; Several world markets closed for New Year's Eve (U.S. is open, no early close)
THURSDAY: All U.S. financial markets closed for New Year's day
FRIDAY: ISM manufacturing index

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