Saturday, April 13, 2024

Stocks open mostly higher on Wall Street, but Big Tech lags

by Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are off to a mostly higher start on Wall Street, keeping several indexes near record highs, but weakness in some Big Tech shares kept the gains in check. The S&P 500 was up 0.2% in the early going. Companies that stand to benefit the most from a recovering economy were putting up some of the biggest gains, including industrial companies, banks, and smaller companies. The S&P 500 was above the record high it closed at a day earlier, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was also near its all-time high. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell slightly. Treasury yields rose.

World shares chugged higher on Wednesday after another round of record highs for major indexes on Wall Street, as hopes flared once again for a new round of aid for the U.S. economy.

Benchmarks rose in Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul. Shanghai declined after China reported that its consumer price index slipped 0.5% in November compared with a year earlier.

Economists said the country’s first slip into deflation since 2009 was no cause for alarm. The overall measure was dragged down by falling food prices due to improvements in supplies of pork, which have been disrupted while authorities fight outbreaks of African swine fever, while other prices gained as economic activity recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Looking through the recent volatility in food and energy prices, the inflation data are less downbeat than meets the eye,” Capital Economics said in a commentary. It noted that core consumer price inflation, excluding volatile food and energy prices, was steady at 0.5% from a year earlier. Strong demand was also driving a recovery manufactured goods’ prices, it said.

The leaders of Britain and the European Union were to meet in Wednesday for a final push at a Brexit deal, as the two sides warned that the chances of a post-Brexit trade deal by a year-end deadline was slipping away. A deep political divide remains over what their relationship will look like once a transition period following Britain’s departure from the bloc ends on Dec. 31.

Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.6% to 6,598.16 and Germany’s DAX picked up 0.5% to 13,353.28. The CAC 40 in France added 0.4% to 5,583.52. Wall Street looked set for an upbeat start, with the future contract for the S&P 500 up 0.2%. The future for the Dow industrials was 0.3% higher.

In Asian trading, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index gained 1.3% to 26,817.94, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong added 0.8% to 26,502.84. In South Korea, the Kospi jumped 2% to 2,755.47. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.6% to 6728.50, while the Shanghai Composite index slipped 1.1%, to 3,371.96.

India’s Sensex climbed 1.2% to 46,132.50. Shares were also higher in Southeast Asia.

Overnight, the S&P 500 rose 0.3% to 3,702.25. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.4% to 30,173.88. The tech-heavy Nasdaq added 0.5% to 12,582.77, marking its fourth straight record high.

Investors were encouraged by upbeat news on coronavirus vaccines and reports that lawmakers and the White House are making progress toward fresh stimulus for the U.S. economy.

The likelihood that distribution of one or more coronavirus vaccines could begin in the U.S. in coming weeks has kept investors in a buying mood, boosting optimism about an economic recovery next year.

As the U.K. became the first Western country to start a mass vaccination program, U.S. health regulators issued a positive initial review of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. The Food and Drug Administration will meet Thursday to determine whether to green-light the distribution of that vaccine. Wide distribution of the shot is likely months away.

The need for a vaccine has grown more urgent as coronavirus cases have surged across much of the world. The virus has claimed more than 1.5 million lives, including over 284,000 in the U.S., the highest toll of any country.

Governments worldwide have been tightening restrictions on businesses in an effort to stem the latest spikes in cases, stoking worries about the potential economic fallout.

That’s kept investors focused on Washington and the prospects for another round of aid for Americans and business hit hardest by the pandemic.

Late Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said he had offered a $916 billion package to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that adds a $600 direct payment for most Americans.

Congress has been stuck in a partisan stalemate over the size and scope of any additional aid to help cushion the financial impact to people and businesses. The economy has been showing signs of a stalled recovery as the virus surge broadens nationally, including slower job growth in the U.S. last month.

“With the markets starting to exhibit some year-end fatigue, any stimulus holiday stocking stuffer will come at a most welcome time and ensure that well-subscribed equity markets will cross the year-end finishing line on a positive note,” Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.94% from 0.92% late Tuesday.

In other trading, benchmark U.S. crude oil picked up 50 cents to $46.10 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 16 cents to $45.60 per barrel on Tuesday.

Brent crude, the international standard, advanced 58 cents to $49.42 per barrel.

The dollar rose to 104.23 Japanese yen from 104.19 yen late Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.2131 from $1.2103.

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