Stocks ease below records in early trading on Wall Street

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are opening moderately lower on Wall Street, edging below the record highs they set a day earlier. The S&P 500 fell 0.4% shortly after the opening bell Wednesday. Technology stocks had some of the biggest losses, which pulled the tech-heavy Nasdaq down 0.9%. Salesforce.com sank 10% after announcing a deal late Tuesday to acquire the messaging platform Slack for $27.7 billion. Pfizer rose 4.4% after British regulators gave emergency authorization to the coronavirus the U.S. drugmaker is developing with BioNTech of Germany. The first vaccinations are expected within days. Treasury yields rose and European markets were mostly lower.

Global shares and Wall Street futures slipped Wednesday as buying enthusiasm waned after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite index both set fresh record highs.

Benchmarks fell in Paris, London, Hong Kong and Shanghai but climbed in Tokyo and Seoul. Investors are betting that coronavirus vaccines may bring on a fuller global economic recovery despite the challenges of immunizing billions of people.

Pfizer and BioNTech said they’ve won permission for emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine in Britain, the world’s first coronavirus shot that’s backed by rigorous science — and a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic.

The move makes Britain one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population as it tries to curb Europe’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak.

Renewed talk of a possible U.S. stimulus package failed to drive major gains in most world markets as investors adopted a “wait and see” stance after so many failed attempts to forge an agreement on additional help for the economy as the U.S. endures fresh waves of coronavirus infections and resulting pandemic precautions.

Germany’s DAX shed 0.4% to 13,328.15 and the CAC 40 in Paris gave up 0.3% to 5,568.21. In Britain, the FTSE 100 edged 0.1% lower to 6,381.53. The future for the S&P 500 slipped 0.3% while the contract for the Dow industrials lost 0.4%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was almost unchanged at 6,590.20 after officials reported the economy expanded 3.3% in July-September from the previous quarter as the country recovered from pandemic lockdowns. That lifted the country out of recession, although in annual terms the economy contracted 3.8% from a year earlier.

“The rebound in Q3 GDP reversed around 40% of the decline during the first half of the year and we expect output to return to pre-virus levels by mid-2021,” Ben Udy of Capital Economics said in a commentary.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.1% to 26,532.58, while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo edged 0.1% higher to 26,800.98.

South Korea’s Kospi gained 1.6% to 2,675.90 and the Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1% lower, to 3,449.39. India’s Sensex gave up 0.9%.

Overnight, the S&P 500 gained 1.1% to 3,662.45, with Big Tech companies and banks driving a big part of the rally. The strong opening to December follows a 10.8% surge for the broad index in November, marking its best month since April. The tech-heavy Nasdaq climbed 1.3% to 12,355.11. Both indexes beat the record highs they set on Friday. Treasury yields also rose in another sign of optimism from investors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6% to 29,823.92, while the Russell 2000 index picked up 0.9%, to 1,836.05.

News that former Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen had accepted President-Elect Joe Biden’s nomination to be his treasury secretary also lifted sentiment, analysts said.

European regulators could approve the vaccine developed by drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech within four weeks. The companies have already asked for approval to begin vaccinations in the U.S. in December. Moderna is also asking U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was steady at 0.92% after jumping from 0.83% late Monday, a big move. The higher yields also helped bolster financial stocks, since they allow banks to charge more lucrative interest rates on loans.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil shed 14 cents to $44.41 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 79 cents to $44.55 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 6 cents to $47.36 per barrel.

The OPEC oil producers’ cartel continued talks Tuesday about how much to pump next year as countries wrestled over whether to extend the production cuts that have been supporting prices depressed by the pandemic.

Members put off from Tuesday to Thursday a meeting with non-OPEC oil producers like Russia, who have been coordinating their actions with the cartel in recent years to increase their influence.

The pandemic has sapped demand for fuel across the economy, leading oil producers to cut back production this year to keep prices from sagging even further. Yet lower output means less revenue for governments depending on oil sales to fill state coffers.

The U.S. dollar strengthened to 104.57 Japanese yen, up from 104.34 yen on Tuesday. The euro weakened to $1.2055 from $1.2072.