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Dow drops nearly 150, ending week of losses

As oil prices continued to rise, investors revealed worries that consumers would curtail spending.

NEW YORK - Wall Street ended a week of big losses with more selling yesterday as rising oil prices again raised worries that consumers would cut back spending. The Dow Jones industrials fell nearly 150 points in the final session before the three-day holiday weekend.

Wall Street fears that consumers, who account for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, will pare spending to pay for gas, which has topped $4 a gallon in some parts of the country.

Light, sweet crude rose $1.38 to settle at $132.19 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil saw its third weekly gain after surging to a record $135.09 a barrel Thursday. Some investors are buying on the belief that global demand from countries such as China and India will outstrip supply. A weak dollar also makes each barrel more expensive.

Some traders took yesterday off before the long weekend; lighter volume can contribute to volatility in stocks.

The Dow fell 145.59, or 1.15 percent, to 12,479.63. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 18.42, or 1.32 percent, to 1,375.93, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 19.91, or 0.81 percent, to 2,444.67.

For the week, the Dow was down 3.91 percent, the S&P 500 gave up 3.47 percent, and the Nasdaq lost 3.33 percent.

The economic fallout from higher energy prices commanded Wall Street's focus this week. Stocks managed to post gains Thursday after the Dow's biggest two-day loss since late February. Despite the declines in the major indexes this week, stocks are off their mid-March lows. The Dow is still up 6.3 percent from its close of 11,740.15 on March 10.

"I think, while the eye of the credit storm may have passed, the tidewater is still rising on the consumer, and investors can't lose sight of that," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank in Chicago.

Investors also worried about the harm higher energy prices are having on businesses. The rise in oil hammered sectors such as airlines. Continental Airlines Inc. fell nearly 27 percent for the week, while United Airlines parent UAL Corp. dropped nearly 46 percent.

The dollar fell, while gold prices rose.

Chris Orndorff, director of equity strategy at Payden & Rygel in Los Angeles, said the spike in oil has rekindled concerns about stagflation - when stalling growth accompanies rising prices.

Orndorff predicts investors will need further evidence of how the economy is faring before they resume taking stocks back toward the highs seen last fall.

"I think the market for the most part is going to be in a somewhat narrow trading range until you get the earnings that come out in July. I think that's going to be an important quarter as people see how the effects of the global economy slowing are affecting the companies."

A Financial Times report that brewing company InBev is readying a $46 billion takeover bid for Budweiser-maker Anheuser-Busch Cos. failed to shake Wall Street from its downcast mood. Often, buyout activity is fodder for a rally in stocks, as it was seen as a bullish sign for the economy. But the buying appeared limited to the St. Louis brewer. Anheuser-Busch rose $4.03, or 7.7 percent, to $56.61.

American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. fell 81 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $18.44 after the company said workers approved a contract including pay cuts and other concessions. The vote ends a strike that lasted nearly three months, hurting General Motors Corp.'s production of large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks. Although the contract's ratification will benefit GM, auto stocks have been under pressure this week because of soaring fuel prices. GM was the steepest decliner among the 30 stocks that constitute the Dow industrials, falling 83 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $17.60.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 8.91, or 1.22 percent, to 724.10.

In overseas trade, Tokyo's Nikkei closed up 0.24 percent. In Europe, London's FTSE ended down 1.53 percent, Frankfurt's DAX fell 1.79 percent, and Paris' CAC 40 shed 1.89 percent.