Stocks open slightly higher; S&P 500, Dow hover near records

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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%.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets were mixed Thursday after Wall Street hit a high and new daily U.S. coronavirus cases surged to a record.

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.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London lost 0.1% to 7,411.22 and Frankfurt’s DAX shed less than 0.1% to 15,844.18. The CAC 40 in Paris advanced less than 0.1% to 7,163.96.

On Wall Street, the futures for S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up less than 0.1%.

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.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6% to 3,619./19 after a deputy commerce minister said China’s total trade is forecast to grow 20% in 2021 over a year earlier.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 0.4% to 28,791.71 while Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 0.1% to 23,112.01.

The Kospi in Seoul declined 0.5% to 2,977.65 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 added less than 0.1% to 7,513.40.

India’s Sensex gained 0.1% to 57,887.26. New Zealand and Bangkok gained while Singapore and Jakarta retreated.

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.