US Stocks Rise Modestly

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks rose modestly on Wall Street Thursday as markets remain anxious about the prospect of more aggressive action by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation.

The S&P 500 rose 0.3% as of 10:16 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 66 points, or 0.2% to 32,864 and the Nasdaq rose 0.3%.

Energy stocks were among the biggest gainers as U.S. crude oil prices rose 1%. Exxon Mobil rose 1.5%.

The gains follow two days of testimony before Congress by Fed Chair Jerome Powell, who said the central bank was prepared to continue making big interest rate increases if necessary. Fears about a persistently aggressive Fed have been weighing on major indexes, all of which are on track for weekly losses.

The Fed's inflation-fighting policies risk slowing the economy too much and pushing it into a recession, while also going too far in softening a strong labor market and putting many people out of work.

A government report on Thursday showed that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week jumped by the most in five months, but layoffs remain historically low.

Yields on the two-year Treasury, which tends to track expectations for future Fed action, eased to 4.97% from about 5.05% just before the unemployment report's release. It had been hovering at its highest level since 2007.

The unemployment data follows a report on Wednesday showing that the number of job openings advertised across the country last month was higher than economists expected. The U.S. government's more comprehensive report on hiring is scheduled for Friday.

Wall Street has been reviewing a range of data that has highlighted both a resilient economy and stubborn inflation. Traders are leaning toward the Fed raising its benchmark interest rate by 0.50 percentage points on March 22. They had been expecting the central bank to stick with a smaller increase of 0.25 points prior to Powell's testimony this week, according to data from CME Group.

Markets in Europe and Asia were mostly lower.