Stocks open higher on Wall Street after best week since 2020

By Joe Mcdonald

Stocks are posting modest gains in early trading on Wall Street Monday, led by energy companies as crude oil prices take another turn higher. The S&P 500 rose 0.3%. The benchmark index is coming off its biggest weekly gain since 2020. The Nasdaq and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were barely higher in the early going. Alleghany, a reinsurance company, soared 25% after agreeing to be bought by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Boeing fell 5.7% after one of its planes crashed in China with 132 people on board, and media ratings agency Nielsen sank 11% after rejecting an acquisition offer.

Wall Street pointed toward an uneven open on Monday as investors kept an eye on efforts to negotiate an end to Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2%, while the same for the S&P 500 inched up less than 0.1%.

Russia’s attack has pushed oil prices up another $4 per barrel and added to uncertainty about the global economic outlook.

“It appears that there is a 50-50 chance of continuing with the pick-up in market sentiments,” Tan Boon Heng of Mizuho Bank said in a report.

On Friday, the S&P 500 gained 1.2%, adding to a streak that included two days of 2% gains. The Dow advanced 0.8% and the Nasdaq composite added 2%. The three indexes had their best week since November 2020 as investors appeared to welcome the Federal Reserve’s attempt to fight surging inflation by raising its key interest rate.

In midday trading Monday, the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.8%, the DAX in Frankfurt gained 0.2% and the CAC 40 in Paris was flat.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index gained less than 0.1% to 3,253.69. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.9% to 21,221.34. Hong Kong-traded shares in China Eastern Airlines, a major mainland China-based carrier, sank 6.5% shortly before the market closed after state media reported that a flight with 132 people aboard had crashed into mountain in southern China, setting off a hill fire. The Civil Aviation Administration of China confirmed the crash. There was no immediate word on casualties.

The Kospi in Seoul lost 0.8% to 2,686.05 after the government reported exports in the first 20 days of March were up 10.1% from a year earlier. Semiconductor exports rose 30.8% while autos fell 18.1% due to supply bottlenecks.

The figures “hinted at a continuation of the global recovery but also pointed to downside risks from global supply chain disruptions,” said Min Koo Kang of ING in a report.

Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 declined 0.2% to 7,278.50 and India’s Sensex retreated 0.8% to 57,409.90.

New Zealand, Singapore and Jakarta gained while Bangkok retreated.

Russia’s attack has added to investor unease about the Fed and other central banks withdrawing stimulus that has pushed up share prices.

Last week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell expressed confidence the economy is strong enough to withstand higher interest rates.

On Sunday, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said Ukraine and Russia are close to an agreement on “fundamental issues” after he traveled to both countries to meet his counterparts.

Cavusoglu said in return for its neutrality, Ukraine wants Turkey, Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council to act as guarantors.

Also Monday, Disney Co. closed its Shanghai theme park as the city tried to control its biggest coronavirus flareup in two years. The southern business center of Shenzhen allowed shops and offices to reopen after a weeklong closure.

China’s case numbers in its latest infection wave are low compared with other major countries, but authorities are enforcing a “zero tolerance” strategy that has suspended access to some major cities.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude rose $4.39 to $109.09 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, gained $4.39 to $112.32 per barrel in London.

The dollar rose to 119.18 yen from Friday’s 119.13 yen. The euro retreated to $1.1032 from $1.1047.