Wall Street opens little changed

A trader working on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Jones at the New York Stock Exchange on April 6, 2017 in New York.
A trader working on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Jones at the New York Stock Exchange on April 6, 2017 in New York.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - US stocks opened little changed on Thursday after the European Central Bank signaled no further interest rate cuts as euro zone prospects improved, while investors awaited former FBI Director James Comey's testimony.

The ECB was expected to take a more cautious stance as the inflation rebound has yet to show a convincing upward trend. "The bias is towards higher rates globally over a long-term period and whether the central banks raise rates today or six months from now, I don't think it's going to change things much," said Mike Mattioli, portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management in Boston.

Mr Comey will be grilled by Washington politicians over his claims that Mr Trump asked him to drop an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn as part of a probe into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Comey's written testimony on Thursday did not spring a surprise, easing concerns that any new revelation could have dampened already flagging momentum for US President Donald Trump's agenda of lower taxes and lax regulations.

Bets that Mr Trump can implement his agenda are partly behind a rally that has taken stock indexes to record highs.

"Comey might move the markets in the short term but I don't think it's going to affect the intrinsic values of what many large U.S. businesses are worth," said Mr Mattioli. "While today's events may seem newsworthy in the short-term, I don't think it's going to move the needle for global economies."

Investors are also keeping an eye on the outcome of the UK general election, with opinion polls showing Theresa May's Conservative Party leading between 5 and 12 percentage points over the main opposition Labour Party, suggesting she would increase her majority.

At 9:33 a.m. ET (9:33 p.m. Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.74 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 21,171.95 and the S&P 500 was down 0.62 points, or 0.02 per cent, at 2,432.52. The Nasdaq Composite was up 4.56 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 6,301.94.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the utilities index's 0.71 per cent loss topping the decliners.

Oil fell for a second day to hit one-month lows after an unexpected surge in U.S. inventories and the return of more Nigerian crude aggravated investor concerns about an already oversupplied market.