NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are opening nearly flat on Wall Street Thursday. New data from the Labor Department showed more Americans applied for jobless benefits last week as the number of unemployed continues to rise modestly. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average are down about 0.1% while the Nasdaq is barely higher. EBay and Hostess shares are sinking after reporting their quarterly results. Investors expect more insight on the Federal Reserve's interest rate plans on Friday, when the Labor Department delivers its July jobs report.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story appears below.
Wall Street pointed toward small gains before the bell Thursday ahead of a double dose of U.S. jobs data while anxiety eased over U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, despite military maneuvers undertaken by China in response.
Futures for the Dow Jones industrials inched up less than 0.1% while futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.1%.
Upcoming data on the U.S. jobs market could help investors determine how the Federal Reserve will move ahead with its interest rate policy, which has been aggressive in an effort to try and tame inflation. U.S. jobless claims numbers for last week will be released Thursday.
Earnings also remain a focus this week as investors parse the latest results and statements from companies to better understand how inflation is affecting businesses and consumers.
Analysts say geopolitical risks remain after Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in defiance of Beijing. Taiwan canceled airline flights Thursday as China fired missiles near the self-ruled island in retaliation for Pelosi's visit, adding to the risk of disruptions in the flow of Taiwanese-made processor chips needed by global telecom and auto industries.
China ordered ships and planes to avoid military drills that encircled Taiwan, which the mainland’s ruling Communist Party claims as part of its territory. It earlier banned imports of hundreds of Taiwanese food items including fish, fruit and cookies.
“Despite the easing in immediate concerns, investors will be looking out for any potential escalation in U.S.-China tensions, with any economic sanctions from China likely to negatively affect risk sentiment and positioning in Asian markets,” said Anderson Alves of ActivTrades.
But overall, Pelosi’s trip so far has had little impact on markets. She visits Seoul on Thursday and then heads to Japan.
Shares in Europe eased back somewhat by midday from bigger early gains after the Bank of England initiated it's biggest rate hike in more than a quarter century said the United Kingdom’s economy is projected to enter a recession in the final three months of the year.
The bank said Thursday that inflation will accelerate to over 13% in the fourth quarter and remain “very elevated,” for much of 2023. The forecast reflects a sharp increase from the 9.4% rate recorded in June.
The bank’s forecasters say inflation will hit its highest point for more than 42 years amid the doubling of wholesale gas prices stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Energy prices will push the economy into a five-quarter recession, with gross domestic product shrinking each quarter in 2023, the bank said.
France's CAC 40 added 1% in midday trading, while Germany's DAX gained 1.1%. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.5%.
In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 finished 0.7% higher to finish at 27,932.20. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost earlier gains, shedding just 1 point to 6,974.90. South Korea's Kospi added 0.5% to 2,473.11. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 2.1% to 20,174.04, while the Shanghai Composite climbed 0.8% to 3,189.04.
India's Sensex lost 0.6% and the Taiex in Taiwan also fell 0.5%.
Oil prices rose modestly following OPEC's decision to boost production in September at a much slower pace than previous months. Benchmark U.S. crude added 41 cents to $91.01 a barrel. On Wednesday, U.S. crude oil fell 4% to settle at $90.66 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 6 cents to $96.84 a barrel.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged up to 134.24 Japanese yen from 133.85 yen. The euro cost $1.0166, little changed from $1.0170.