Stocks Open Slightly Higher; S&P 500, Dow Hover Near Records

Trader Peter Tuchman wears a “Dow $35,000” hat to mark the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing at 35,061.55, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, July 23. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Stocks are opening with slight gains on Wall Street Thursday, keeping the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average hovering just above the latest record highs they set a day earlier.

The S&P 500 was up 0.3% in the first few minutes of trading, led by gains in banks, health care and industrial companies, and the Dow was up 0.5%.

Technology stocks lagged the rest of the market, and the Nasdaq was little changed. European markets were also modestly higher and Asian markets closed mixed overnight.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was little changed at 1.54%.

London and Frankfurt opened lower and Tokyo and Seoul also declined. Shanghai and Hong Kong advanced.

Wall Street futures were higher after the benchmark S&P 500 index on Wednesday hit its 70th record high of 2021.

Optimism was tempered by data showing new U.S. virus cases have risen to an average of 265,000 per day, driven largely by the more contagious omicron variant.

Markets are “hanging onto thin optimism” while health care resources do a “balancing act,” Tan Boon Heng of Mizuho Bank said in a report.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 0.1% and the Dow added 0.2%. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1%. The S&P 500 is on track for a gain of more than 27% in 2021.

The benchmark, which also set records on Monday and on Dec. 23, hit more new highs in 2021 than in any year since the 77 in 1954. The Dow set a record in early November.

Investors have been encouraged by stronger corporate profits and advances in vaccine development and virus treatment.

That has been tempered by the Federal Reserve’s decision to try to cool U.S. inflation, which is at a nearly four-decade high, by rolling back stimulus that has boosted stock prices.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 was lifted by gains in health care, technology and consumer-oriented stocks.

Investor concerns about the omicron variant eased after researchers said it appears to cause less severe symptoms and President Joe Biden avoided announcing travel or other restrictions that might weigh on economic activity.

Still, markets are uncertain about the impact of omicron, which is spreading fast and quickly becoming the dominant variant.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 13 cents to $76.43 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract advanced 58 cents to $76.56 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, gained 16 cents to $79.05 per barrel in London. It closed 29 cents higher the previous session at $79.23.

The dollar rose to 115.14 yen from Wednesday’s 114.97 yen. The euro declined to $1.1307 from $1.1344.

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