Wall Street opens slightly lower as investors stay away after Brussels attacks

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States stock indexes were slightly lower on Wednesday morning, dragged down by energy and materials stocks, as investors remained wary of taking on risk in a week marred by the attacks in Brussels and shortened by the Good Friday holiday.

Oil prices were lower after data showing a rise in U.S. stockpiles last week rekindled worries about a global glut. Gold and metals prices also fell as the dollar strengthened on hawkish comments from U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers.

The Dow Jones industrial average held onto meager gains for the year after a five-week rally helped the market recover from a steep selloff at the start of the year. The S&P 500 slipped back to negative territory for 2016.

"We've seen a tremendous run-up largely related to the fact that the world didn't end after all, but it is hard to see where we get the kind of improvement from here which would drive the market sustainably higher," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Massachusetts.

At 9:39 a.m. ET (9.39 pm Singapore time), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 35.16 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 17,547.41, the S&P 500 was down 4.18 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 2,045.62 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 9.62 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 4,812.04.

Nine of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, led by the 0.85 per cent fall in the materials sector. Newmont Mining shares were down 4.7 per cent at US$26.09 and weighed the most on the sector.

Investors were assessing recent comments from Fed officials, supporting more interest rate hikes this year as the economy continues to show signs of resilience.