US Stocks Open Modestly Higher

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are opening modestly higher on Wall Street as markets remain anxious about the prospect of more aggressive action by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation. The modest moves came after two days of testimony before Congress by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who said the central bank was prepared to continue making big interest rate increases if necessary. Investors fear the inflation-fighting policies may tip the economy into a recession and put many people out of work. The S&P 500 was up 0.3% early Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq composite aslo rose. Treasury yields pulled back.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below.

Wall Street drifted modestly lower early Thursday amid increasing anxiety following Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell's warning to Congress this week that rate hikes might accelerate because upward pressure on prices has been stronger than expected.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrials slipped 0.1% and the S&P 500 fell 0.3% before the bell.

The concern is that in efforts to cool inflation, the Fed and other central banks may tip the global economy into at least a brief recession. U.S. inflation edged up in January to 5.4%, well above the Fed's target of 2%.

"The risks of a higher and faster hike trajectory have risen," Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a report. He said the Fed might be motivated by "mounting criticism" that it has "fallen behind the inflation curve."

Powell said Wednesday that Fed policymakers want to see more data before deciding on future rate hikes.

A report Wednesday showed the number of job openings advertised across the country last month was higher than expected. Traders scrutinize such data for clues about wages, one factor the Fed looks at in trying to forecast inflation. The report also showed some signs of easing pressure, including fewer Americans quitting their jobs.

A separate report Wednesday suggested hiring is still stronger across U.S. private employers than expected.

The U.S. government's more comprehensive monthly report on hiring is due out Friday.

Other data showed strong U.S. consumer spending, another factor policymakers worry might push up prices.

Expectations for a firmer Fed have been most clear in the bond market, where yields have moved higher.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury, or the difference between its market price and the payout at maturity, ticked up to 4% from 3.99% late Wednesday.

The yield on the two-year Treasury inched back to 5.06% from 5.07%. It's at its highest level since 2007.

Yields on shorter-term Treasurys are above those for Treasurys that pay off further in the future. Wall Street sees that as a fairly reliable indicator of an impending recession.

In European trading, the FTSE 100 in London lost 0.6% at midday and the DAX in Frankfurt retreated 0.5%. The CAC 40 in Paris declined 0.4%.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.2% to 3,276.09 after Chinese inflation decelerated in February to 1% over a year earlier from the previous month's 2.5%. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong shed 0.6% to 19,925.74.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo gained 0.6% to 28,623.15 after the government cut its estimate of economic growth in the three months ending in December to 0.1% from a previous estimate of 0.6%.

The Kospi in Seoul sank 0.5% to 2,419.09 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 was up less than 0.1% at 7,311.10.

India's Sensex sank 0.8% to 59,873.04. New Zealand and Singapore declined while Jakarta and Bangkok rose.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. rose 19 cents to $76.85 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 92 cents on Wednesday to $76.66. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, gained 26 cents to $82.32 per barrel in London. It retreated 63 cents the previous session to $82.66.

The dollar declined to 136.39 yen from Wednesday's 137.24 yen. The euro gained to $1.0561 from $1.0545.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 0.1%, recovering some of the previous day's loss. The Dow fell 0.2% and the Nasdaq composite added 0.4%.