Wall Street slightly higher at open as oil rises

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Wall Street was slightly higher on Tuesday as a surge in oil drove gains in energy stocks.

Benchmark Brent edged up over US $43 (S$57.85) per barrel on hopes that a meeting of major producers on Sunday would result in a deal to curb a persistent global oversupply.

Investors will turn their attention to corporate earnings over the next several weeks, amid turbulent global markets and the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. Federal Reserve's plan to raise interest rates.

"The market has been in a small consolidating phase, biding time and waiting for the next driver that will dictate the next move in equities," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey. "The earnings season is going to set a clear tone moving forward for the next quarter of trading. The direction has yet to be determined," he said.

The S&P 500 has risen more than 12 per cent from its low in February as oil rebounded and data suggested that the U.S. economy was recovering.

S&P 500 companies are expected to post an average decline in profit of 7.7 per cent for the latest quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Still, global risks remain a concern. The International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecast for the fourth time in the past year on Tuesday, citing China's slowdown, low oil prices and chronic weakness in advanced economies.

At 9:41 a.m. ET (9:41 p.m Singapore time), the Dow Jones industrial average was up 43.9 points, or 0.25 per cent, at 17,600.31, the S&P 500 was up 3.92 points, or 0.19 per cent, at 2,045.91 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.99 points, or 0.02 per cent, at 4,832.41.

Eight of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 0.66 per cent rise in the energy sector.