NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are inching higher at the open on Wall Street Wednesday, tracking markets in Europe. The S&P 500 is up 0.4% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.2%. The Nasdaq composite is up 0.3%.
Traders are focused on risks from inflation to oil prices, including central banks’ moves on interest rates, political developments in Britain and worries over COVID-19.
The euro is at a 20-year low to the dollar on worries over disruptions to energy supplies. Amazon is down 1.3% amid news that Britain’s competition watchdog is investigating possible unfair trading practices.
U.S. futures slipped Wednesday and European benchmarks rose in early trading despite lingering anxieties about an economic slowdown.
Analysts said markets were focusing on a variety of risks, including inflation, oil prices, moves by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks on interest rates, political developments in Britain and worries over COVID-19.
In Paris, the CAC 40 added 1.4%, while Germany’s DAX rose 1.1%. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 1.5%.
The euro was trading for $1.0188, dipping below its previous 20-year low on worries over how disruptions to energy supplies might weigh on European economies. It was trading at $1.0429 late Tuesday.
The dollar has surged as the Federal Reserve has embraced a more aggressive approach to taming inflation, widening the gap between interest rates in the U.S. and lagging rates in Europe and Japan, where the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are adopting a more cautious stance.
“The euro has depreciated sharply due to a toxic cocktail of negative drivers,” Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary. “An oddly hesitant ECB contrasts with a more aggressive Fed, worries about natural gas supply disruption and economic recession are deepening,” he said.
But the risks are evident. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the 27-nation European Union needs to make emergency plans to prepare for a complete cut-off of Russian gas in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
The EU has already imposed sanctions on Russia, including on some energy supplies, and is gearing away from Kremlin-controlled deliveries, but von der Leyen said the bloc needed to be ready for shock disruptions coming from Moscow “and even a complete cut-off of Russian gas supply.”
U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 73 cents at $100.23 per barrel. It sank $8.93 on Tuesday, eventually settling below $100 a barrel for the first time since early May in New York trading. Brent crude, the international standard, gained $1.49 cents to $104.26 per barrel.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 1.2% to finish at 26,107.65. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.5% to 6,594.50. South Korea’s Kospi shed 2.1% to 2,292.01. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.2% to 21,586.66 while the Shanghai Composite slid 1.4% to 3,355.35.
Markets have grown more volatile as investors fret that economies are slowing under the weight of surging inflation and sharply higher interest rates, pressures that could tip them into recession.
Inflation has been squeezing businesses and consumers, tightening its grip after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The invasion sent oil prices higher globally and sent gasoline prices in the U.S. to record highs. Consumers struggling with higher prices on everything from food to clothing are cutting back on spending.
Lockdowns in China from rising COVID-19 cases have also made supply chain problems worse.
“Mostly, though, it is China and COVID zero that are weighing on the sentiment in Asia, which was going to be fragile anyway,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia Pacific at OANDA. “The prospect of more COVID zero restrictions in China is an unwelcome dose of reality for Asia and is certainly carrying more weight, although Asian currency weakness is also in play,” he said.
Residents of parts of Shanghai and Beijing have been ordered to undergo further rounds of COVID-19 testing following the discovery of new cases in the two cities, while tight restrictions remain in place in Hong Kong, Macao and other Chinese cities.
Wall Street will get a closer look at the employment market on Friday when the the government releases employment data for June. Investors are also looking ahead to the next round of corporate earnings.
In other trading, the U.S. dollar edged down to 135.29 Japanese yen from 135.84 yen.