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Low energy sends Wall Street down

THE DOW industrials and the S&amp;P 500 index fell yesterday as a drop in oil and other commodity prices hurt energy and materials stocks. But the Nasdaq rose, buoyed by a broker&rsquo;s upgrade in the biotechnology sector. <br /><br />Light crude futures fell more than 3 per cent, hurt by concerns about demand despite hopes for economic recovery. <br /><br />The dollar index rose 0.5 per cent after three weeks of declines and further hurt commodity prices, as investors scaled back short positions in anticipation of the Federal Reserve&rsquo;s decision on interest rates later this week.<br /><br />Energy and materials ranked among the S&amp;P 500&rsquo;s worst-performing sectors, with oil services company <strong>Halliburton</strong> down 2.5 per cent at $27.45 and petroleum refiner <strong>Sunoco</strong> off 2.3 per cent at $27.79. Shares of diversified chemicals company Dow Chemical lost 2.8 per cent to $26.00.<br /><br />The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 41.34 points, or 0.42 per cent, to end at 9,778.86. The Standard &amp; Poor&rsquo;s 500 Index fell 3.64 points, or 0.34 per cent, to 1,064.66. But the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 5.18 points, or 0.24 per cent, to close at 2,138.04.<br /><br />Adding to the overall negative tone in the session, the Conference Board&rsquo;s index of leading indicators posted a slightly weaker-than-expected gain in August. <br /><br />Among the top drags on the Dow Jones was <strong>Caterpillar</strong>, down 1.8 per cent at $52.46 after it said dealer sales fell 48 per cent in August. <br /><br />The Dow&rsquo;s leading laggard was American Express, down 2.9 per cent at $33.76. <br /><br />The Nasdaq rose slightly after Robert Baird upgraded <strong>Celgene</strong>, pushing the stock up 5 per cent to $55.19. <br /><br />Shares of <strong>American International Group</strong> shot up 21.3 per cent to $48.40 after the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog agency of Congress, said the insurer&rsquo;s once desperate financial state has started to stabilise.<br />