Wall Street moderately lower as anxiety over interest rates persists


Wall Street turned lower early Thursday as concerns over interest rates, rising oil prices and a possible government shutdown hung over markets.

Futures for the Dow Jones industrials inched back about 0.1% before the bell, while the S&P 500 lost 0.2%.

After more than a decade in which the Federal Reserve would quickly cut rates in order to help the economy, still-high inflation is now discouraging the Fed from lowering rates, which has put pressure on the stock market.

The Fed's main interest rate is already at its highest level since 2001, and the central bank indicated last week it would cut rates in 2024 by less than previously expected.

Other worries tugging at financial markets are the threat of another U.S. government shutdown as Capitol Hill threatens a stalemate that could shut off federal services across the country as soon as this weekend.

Stock prices have managed through past shutdowns relatively well, but conditions may be a little different this time.

After reaching its highest level in more than year on Wednesday, U.S. crude slipped 60 cents to $93.08 a barrel. Crude prices are up 30% over the last three months and is threatening to top $100 again for the first time since the summer of 2022. Brent crude, the international standard, was fell 53 cents to $93.83.

In equities trading, shares in GameStop jumped 10% after the company named billionaire Ryan Cohen, the video game retailer's largest individual investor, as its CEO. The CEO job at GameStop, the original so-called "meme stock," has become a rotating door with the company trying to survive as technology upends the gaming industry.

Peloton climbed more than 14% in premarket trading after the online exercise bike and fitness company announced a five-year partnership with athletic wear maker Lululemon Athletica. The collaboration, announced Wednesday aftermarket, makes Peloton the exclusive digital fitness content provider for Lululemon, which will take on the role as Peloton's primary athletic apparel partner.

Elsewhere, trading in shares of heavily indebted Chinese property developer China Evergrande Group was suspended in Hong Kong. That followed media reports that the chairman of Evergrande, Hui Ka Yan, had been taken away earlier this month and placed under police watch.

Evergrande is the world's most heavily indebted real estate developer and is at the center of a property market crisis that is dragging on China's economic growth.

"The relatively quiet economic calendar today may lead sentiments on a more subdued tone, while reservations on risk taking may continue to revolve around developments on China's property sector," said Yeap Jun Rong, market analyst at IG.

The Hang Seng index slid 1.4% to 17,373.03. The Shanghai Composite was up 0.1% to 3,110.48.

Trading was closed in South Korea for a holiday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 dropped 1.5% to 31,872.52. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 slipped nearly 0.1% to 7,024.80.

In Europe at midday, France's CAC 40 gained 0.2%, Germany's DAX was mostly unchanged and Britain's FTSE 100 edged down 0.4%.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar fell to 149.31 Japanese yen from 149.63 yen. The euro cost $1.0546, up from $1.0509.