Thursday, April 18, 2024

Wall Street opens mixed after US stocks gain for 5th day

by Associated Press

Shares are opening mixed on Wall Street Tuesday, a day after hitting an all-time high. The technology and health care sectors are rising faster than the rest of the market, and the Nasdaq Composite is up 0.7% in the first minutes of trading. The S&P 500 is up just 0.1% after the Commerce Department said Americans cut spending by more than expected in February, especially at department and sporting goods stores. Oil and gas exploration shares followed the price of oil lower. Benchmarks in Paris, London and Tokyo rose. Concerns about blood clotting with AstraZeneca’s vaccine are also surfacing.

Global shares rose on Tuesday, cheered by a rally to all-time highs on Wall Street despite growing concern over the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

France’s CAC 40 edged up 0.3% in early trading to 6,051.82, while Germany’s DAX added 0.4% to 14,521.75. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.6% to 6,792.22. U.S. shares were set for a slow start, with Dow futures down 0.1% at 32,810. S&P 500 futures were unchanged at 3,958.30.

In Asian trading, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.5% to finish at 29,921.09. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.7% to 3,067.17. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 jumped 0.8% to 6,827.10. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.7% to 29,027.69, while the Shanghai Composite recouped earlier losses and rose 0.8% to 3,446.73.

The slower rollouts of the coronavirus vaccine in Asia, compared to the U.S. and Europe, continues to put investors in the region in a cautionary mode, although South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and other nations have had fewer deaths.

Weighing on sentiment is news that the vaccine from AstraZeneca had had reports “blood clots after usage, whether or not a side-effect, (that) have resulted in a ‘precautionary’ suspension” in Europe,” said Venkateswaran Lavanya of Mizuho Bank in Singapore.

“This has set back Europe’s vaccination progress even more starkly compared to the U.S.,” Lavanya said in a report.

It could be a problem for Japan, which has started vaccinations of medical professionals with the product from Pfizer, but was set to use those from Moderna and AstraZeneca. The AstraZeneca vaccines were due to be produced in Japan, unlike the other two brands.

Investors have taken heart from President Joe Biden’s pledge to expand vaccine eligibility to all Americans by May 1, which should also translate into faster economic growth, including for Asia.

However, some economists fear that inflation, which has been dormant over the past decade, could accelerate under the extra demand generated by a surge in government spending. Others disagree, pointing out that there are 9.5 million fewer jobs in the American economy than there were before the pandemic hit, and argue that unemployment will keep a lid on inflation.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude lost 64 cents to $64.75 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 22 cents to $65.39 on Monday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 64 cents to $68.24 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged up to 109.20 Japanese yen from 109.13 yen. The euro cost $1.1926, down from $1.1928.

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