Stocks Open Monday Broadly Lower

NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of crude oil surged Monday after the U.S. government moved to further block Iranian oil exports. That helped to lift energy stocks, but losses elsewhere in the market pulled U.S. indexes modestly lower in morning trading.

The Trump administration told five countries, including the world's second and third largest economies, that they will no longer be exempt from U.S. sanctions if they continue to import oil from Iran. That helped the price of benchmark U.S. crude touch its highest level since October, and energy stocks in the S&P 500 jumped 1.1%.

Most other areas of the stock market were weaker, though, and six of the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500 index were lower. A measure of volatility in the stock market, which traders call the "fear gauge," was on pace for its biggest jump in a month. The VIX, which measures how worried traders are about upcoming swings in stock prices, rose 10%, though it remains at a quite low level.

Real-estate stocks had some of the sharpest losses. Industrial stocks and companies that rely on discretionary spending by consumers were also weak.

Stock trading was relatively muted around the world, with markets in London, Frankfurt and other major markets closed for holidays.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 dipped 0.1% as of 10 a.m. Eastern time.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 65 points, or 0.2%, to 26,494, and the Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1%.

BUBBLING CRUDE: Benchmark U.S. crude surged $1.49, or 2.3%, to $65.56 per barrel. The leap tacks further gains onto the price of oil, which has been climbing since dropping below $43 in late December.

If successful, the Trump administration's move could increase demand for oil from U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates but would heighten political tensions.

"The big fear now and perhaps the markets' next significant catalyst, will Iran retaliate with force?" said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management in a report.

Marathon Oil rose 2.1%, and Exxon Mobil gained 1.4%.

UNBOXED: Kraft Heinz rose 1.4% after it named a new chief executive to take over for Bernardo Hees. The company in February disclosed an investigation by federal regulators into its accounting practices, while slashing the value of its Oscar Mayer and Kraft brands as U.S. families move away from familiar packaged foods.

CLEANING UP: Kimberly-Clark jumped 6.3% for the biggest gain in the S&P after the maker of Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissue reported stronger earnings and revenue for its latest quarter than analysts expected.

IT'S QUIET OUT THERE: The stock market has been notably quiet, with no move for the S&P 500 of more than 0.7% in either direction since the start of the month. That follows a torrid first quarter for U.S. markets, and the S&P 500 is back within a good day or two from its record after losing nearly 20% late last year.

WORLD MARKETS: Markets around the world were mixed in relatively muted trading. The Nikkei 225 index in Japan rose 0.1%, and the Kospi in South Korea was virtually flat, while stocks in Shanghai lost 1.7%. Markets in Paris, Hong Kong and Sydney were closed for holidays.

(BAS)