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US stocks open lower amid broad market caution

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[NEW YORK] US stocks opened broadly lower Tuesday as investors moved to safety amid rising support in Britain for splitting from the European Union and ahead of a Federal Reserve policy meeting.

Earlier the yield on one of Europe's safest sovereign bonds, the 10-year German bund, fell below zero for the first time, reflecting broad worries over the global economy and a possible British referendum vote against EU membership on June 23.

"Risk aversion is the order of the day," said Patrick O'Hare of, adding: "So far anyway." About 20 minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.2 per cent at 17,702.56.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell less than 0.1 per cent to 2,078.22.

But the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite managed a slight gain of 0.1 per cent at 4,855.41.

With one per cent-plus losses on Europe's major bourses, Wall Street gained support from a slightly better-than-expected report on US retail sales in May, up 0.5 per cent for the month and 2.5 per cent year-on-year.

"Consumption is the stalwart of the US economy, and is certainly more important to the health of the global economy than whether the UK keeps formal ties with the EU," said Jay Morelock of FTN Financial.

"But Brexit remains the bigger market risk for the next couple of months." Meanwhile the Fed was not expected to take any significant policy action in its two-day meeting starting Tuesday, with officials worried about both weak inflation and last month's poor employment report.

Tech stocks were boosted by a 3.4 per cent gain in Chinese online marketplace Alibaba after it forecast a 48 per cent jump in revenue this year.

Apple was up 1.1 per cent a day after announcing several new initiatives, including stepping up its artificial intelligence efforts by opening up its Siri digital assistant to outside applications.

Oil majors fell as crude prices remained weak; ExxonMobil lost 0.4 per cent and Chevron 0.9 per cent.