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Oil hits lowest price in 3 years, dragging on stocks

The New York Stock Exchange at the beginning

The New York Stock Exchange at the beginning of the trading day in Manhattan on Aug. 28, 2013. Credit: EPA / Peter Foley

Stock indexes closed mixed Tuesday, led by declines in energy companies as oil hit its lowest price in three years.

At the close on Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 index ended down 5.71 points, or 0.28 percent, at 2,012.10. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 17.60 points, or 0.10 percent, to 17,383.84. The Nasdaq composite gave up 15.27 points, or 0.33 percent, to close at 4,623.64.

U.S. crude oil fell $1.59, or 2 percent, to $77.19 a barrel on the Mercantile Exchange in New York, the lowest price in three years.

Energy stocks fell 2 percent, the most of the 10 industries in the S&P 500 index. Oilfield services companies were especially hard hit. Halliburton slumped 5 percent.

Oil has fallen sharply in recent weeks as global supplies rise while demand for fuel trails earlier expectations. The latest move down in the price was prompted by reports that Saudi Arabia is cutting the price of oil that it supplies to the U.S. as it attempts to maintain its market share as U.S. production booms.

The slumping price of oil is giving a boost to airlines, because the cost of fuel is their single largest operating cost. Delta Air Lines surged $1.38, or 3.4 percent, to $42. United Continental, Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines also logged big gains.

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