updated 10/19/2004 9:45:09 AM ET 2004-10-19T13:45:09

A sharp drop in oil prices gave Wall Street a modest relief rally Monday, with stocks edging higher on news that oil production had soared during the month of September.

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Investors who have sold stocks for months as oil prices climbed reversed course Monday and started buying as the price of crude declined. While oil topped $55 per barrel in pre-market trading, the latest production report from OPEC — showing crude production last month at 25-year highs — deflated futures trading substantially.

A barrel of crude closed at $53.67, down $1.26, on the New York Mercantile Exchange after reaching $55.33 before the session.

“Oil’s precipitous slide lower and lower is giving investors a little more confidence in equities in an otherwise quiet afternoon,” said Brian Williamson, an equity trader at The Boston Company Asset Management. “I do think there could be some wait-and-see on earnings, since we have so many of them coming this week.”

The good news about oil helped investors overcome 3M Co.’s earnings, which missed Wall Street’s expectations as the company lowered its full-year outlook, blaming the volatile global economy for lower revenues. At least 30 percent of the Standard & Poor’s 500 companies are scheduled to report earnings this week, though another rise in oil prices could draw attention away from the reports.

At Monday’s close the Dow Jones industrial average was up 22.94 points, or 0.23 percent, at 9,956.32, while the broader S&P 500 index was up 5.82 points, or 0.53 percent, at 1,114.02. The Nasdaq composite index, full of tech stocks, rose 25.02 points, or 1.31 percent, to 1,936.52.

While the major indexes rose, advancing issues did not substantially outnumber decliners on either the New York Stock Exchange or the Nasdaq Stock Market, leading many analysts to wonder whether the rally could be carried through the coming days.

“The price of oil is so important to the market, and who knows what oil is going to do in the short term?” said Don Ross, chief investment officer at National City Investment Management Co. “I think we have some potential to break out to the upside by the end of the year, as long as we can stop oil from going up from here.”

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Although 3M saw its earnings climb 17 percent in the third quarter, the industrial conglomerate missed Wall Street forecasts by a penny. Investors were further concerned as the company warned that its full-year results might also miss estimates. 3M tumbled $1.88 to $76.10.

“3M is widely owned, but really isn’t a market leader or a proxy for the market the way it once was. Nobody’s making investing decisions based on 3M,” said Brian Pears, head equity trader at Victory Capital Management in Cleveland.

Tech stocks rose as investors waxed optimistic on earnings from International Business Machines Corp., which reported earnings after the session. IBM, which beat Wall Street estimates by 3 cents per share before a one-time charge, closed at $85.82, up $1.07, and gained another $1.12 to $87.04 in after-hours trading.

Toy manufacturing rivals Mattel Inc. and Hasbro Inc. reported earnings early Monday, and both saw weakness in the third quarter. Mattel’s profits fell 5.2 percent in the quarter due to slow sales of its Barbie, Matchbox and Hot Wheels toys, though the company managed to beat earnings forecasts by a penny. Hasbro, meanwhile, took an accounting charge that caused the toy maker to miss earnings estimates by 6 cents per share. Mattel lost 47 cents to $17.50, while Hasbro shed $1.20 to $17.26.

Dow component Pfizer Inc. gained 50 cents to $29 after the pharmaceutical giant said it would conduct additional scientific studies on its Celebrex arthritis drug and potential cardiovascular risks. Merck & Co. pulled its rival Vioxx drug from the market last month due to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Merck rose 40 cents to $30.90.

Forest Laboratories Inc. said its earnings rose 60 percent for the quarter on the strength of its anti-depression drugs. Forest, which surpassed analysts’ forecasts by 3 cents per share, nonetheless was down $1.13 at $46.37.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.16 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed up 0.08 percent, France’s CAC-40 lost 0.3 percent for the session, and Germany’s DAX index dropped 0.18 percent.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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