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Wall Street drops, oil prices rise
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Wall Street tumbled on Thursday as news of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and weak economic data unsettled the markets.

The markets dropped when Bhutto was killed in a suicide bombing in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, triggering investors' worries about safety in the region.

The durable goods data disappointed investors on Thursday. The U.S. Commerce Department said orders for durable goods nosed up just 0.1 percent in November, a sharp decline from expected rise of 2.2 percent. The tiny move-up indicated that the economy is slowing down.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department reported on Thursday that the number of jobless claims rose slightly by 1,000 last week. And Goldman Sachs reported banking giants such as Citigroup and Merrill Lynch would likely see further write-downs in the fourth quarter of the year.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 138.03 to 13,413.66. Broader stock indicators also fell. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 13.17 to 1,484.49, and Nasdaq composite index fell 27. 27 to 2,697.14.

Oil prices close near 97 US dollars

Oil futures rose on Thursday for a fourth consecutive day to close near 97 dollars a barrel after government reports showed U.S. crude inventories fell for the sixth week and as geopolitical tensions escalated after former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.

Crude for February delivery ended the session up 65 cents to 96.62 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier it rose to an intraday high of 97.79 dollars in electronic trading.

In its weekly inventory report, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said oil inventories fell by 3.3 million barrels in the week ending Dec. 21, more than double the 1. 3 million barrel decline analysts expected.

Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto died after a suicide bombing that also killed at least 20 others during a political rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Pakistan, while not a major oil producer, holds nuclear weapons, and the death of Bhutto could increase tensions in the region.

(Xinhua News Agency December 28, 2007)

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