Wall Street opens higher as energy, financial stocks rise

A street sign near the New York Stock Exchange in New York.
A street sign near the New York Stock Exchange in New York.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US stocks opened higher on Wednesday (Sept 06), driven by gains in energy and financial stocks, but investors remained cautious amid tensions on the Korean peninsula and concerns that the Category 5 Hurricane Irma could hit the United States.

Exxon's 1.56 per cent rise was the biggest boost on the S&P, while Goldman Sachs and Home Depot's more than 1 per cent rise propelled the Dow.

"I think it (North Korea) is still going to be a factor with a bit of nervousness out there. We also have another hurricane heading towards Florida," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in Florida. "We're already seeing water flying off the shelves at grocery stores."

North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test yet on Sunday, triggering a dramatic escalation of its stand-off with the United States that drove investors towards safe-haven assets. Also weighing on investors' mind is Hurricane Irma, which is en route to a possible Florida landfall at the weekend.

At 9:39 a.m. ET (9:39 p.m. Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 65.91 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 21,819.22 and the S&P 500 was up 5.84 points, or 0.24 per cent, at 2,463.69. The Nasdaq Composite was up 10.73 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 6,386.30.

All the 11 major S&P indexes were higher, with a 0.67 per cent rise in the energy index topping the advancers.

Oil prices rose on Wednesday as strong global refining margins and the reopening of US Gulf Coast refineries provided a more bullish outlook after sharp drops due to Storm Harvey. Financial stocks also gained 0.55 per cent, a day after they suffered their biggest one-day fall since mid-May.

Data showed the U.S. trade deficit increased less than expected in July as both exports and imports fell, suggesting that trade could contribute to economic growth in the third quarter. The Commerce Department said the trade gap rose 0.3 per cent to US$43.7 billion (S$59.1 billion), compared with an increase to $44.6 billion forecast by economists polled by Reuters.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,800 to 691. On the Nasdaq, 1,455 issues rose and 819 fell.