Wall Street lower on inflation, Trump policy worries

A street sign near the New York Stock Exchange in New York, on Feb 16, 2017.
A street sign near the New York Stock Exchange in New York, on Feb 16, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - US stocks opened lower on Thursday (Aug 17) after minutes from the Federal Reserve's July meeting showed growing concerns over weak inflation, while investors worried about President Donald Trump's ability to pursue his pro-growth policies.

All the 11 major indexes were lower, with technology index's 0.4 per cent fall topping the list. Cisco's 4 per cent fall weighed the most on the S&P and the Nasdaq, while Wal-Mart's 2.7 per cent slide was the biggest drag on the Dow.

Indexes closed off their highs on Wednesday following Mr Trump's decision to disband two business councils after several chief executives quit in protest over his remarks on white nationalists.

"I think it creates concern. Now, you will have to question what the administration will be able to do going forward to implement any kind of policy," said Bob Phillips, managing principal at Spectrum Management Group.

Weak inflation has spurred concerns that the Fed may have to cool its monetary tightening pace even though the economy is growing moderately and the unemployment rate is at a 16-year low.

The central bank is also considering reducing its US$4.2 trillion portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

"The Fed beginning to reduce its balance sheet will cause some upward pressure on interest rates and the Fed won't probably see a need to raise rates once more this year. That's my gut feeling," Mr Phillips said.

At 9:43 a.m. ET (9:43 p.m. Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 63.63 points, or 0.29 per cent, at 21,961.24 and the S&P 500 was down 5.06 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 2,463.05. The Nasdaq Composite was down 18.57 points, or 0.29 per cent, at 6,326.54.

Data showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to a near six-month low last week, pointing to a further tightening in the labor market. Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,533 to 965. On the Nasdaq, 1,390 issues fell and 892 advanced.

Alibaba's shares hit record high after the e-commerce firm's revenue beat estimates.