Wall Street flat as James Comey’s testimony underway

A souvenir license plate is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan, New York. Photo: Reuters

US stocks were little changed in choppy late morning trading on Thursday as former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony got underway.

Comey is being grilled by Washington politicians over his claims that President Donald Trump asked him to drop an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn as part of a probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Comey said he had no doubt that Russia interfered with the election but was confident that no votes had been altered.

“Today is about Washington and the drama surrounding Comey’s testimony. But the talk about the demise of President Trump’s presidency or growth agenda seems premature, short of a smoking gun,” said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at US Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.

“I expect equities to generally tend sideways today, short of any new revelations coming out of the testimony.”

Earlier on Thursday, the European Central Bank signalled no further interest rate cuts as euro zone prospects improved but said subdued inflation meant it would continue to pump more stimulus into the region’s economy.

Investors are also keeping an eye on the outcome of the UK general election, with opinion polls showing Theresa May’s Conservative Party leading between 5 and 12 percentage points over the main opposition Labour Party, suggesting she would increase her majority.

At 10:35 am ET (1435 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 5.62 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 21,179.31, the S&P 500 was down 1.51 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 2,431.63.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 0.56 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 6,296.82.

Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the defensive utilities index’s 1.08 per cent loss topping the decliners.

Shares of Alibaba Group Holding were up 9.5 per cent at $137.55 after the company said it expects revenue growth of 45-49 per cent in the 2018 financial year.

Yahoo, which owns a 15.5 per cent stake in Alibaba also rose 7.2 per cent to $54.18.

Nordstrom jumped 11.4 per cent to $45.09 after the department store operator said that some members of the controlling Nordstrom family have formed a group to consider taking the company private.

Among other retailers, Macy’s was up 2.1 per cent, and JC Penney 1.2 per cent.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,410 to 1,252. On the Nasdaq, 1,408 issues rose and 1,162 fell.

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