NEW YORK — World stock markets moved higher as oil prices rose and the dollar sank to a near eight-week low on Thursday after minutes from the US Federal Reserve’s latest meeting showed policymakers were divided over whether to raise interest rates soon.
A lower-than-expected reading on new US jobless claims and comments on the “hollowing out” of the labour market from New York Fed President William Dudley gave US stocks a modest boost in early trading.
While Dudley did not elaborate on his comments earlier in the week that the Fed could raise rates as early as next month, he highlighted strong gains in hiring over the past few months that he said were an “important development in the economy.”
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 20.47 points, or 0.11 percent, to 18,594.41, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 3.46 points, or 0.16%, to 2,185.68 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 11.93 points, or 0.23%, to 5,240.59
Wall Street was also underpinned by strong gains from Wal-Mart, which rose as much as 3.1 percent to $75.19 – a more than 14-month high — after the retailer posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit. The stock provided the biggest boost to the Dow and the S&P 500.
Energy stocks provided the biggest sector boost as Brent crude futures rose above $50 per barrel, touching a six-week high.
Brent crude LCOc1 prices rose to their highest since July 4 as the world’s biggest producers prepared to discuss a possible freeze in production levels.
Brent traded at $50.42 a barrel, up 56 cents on the day. U.S. light crude oil CLc1 was up $1.02 at $47.81.
Members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) will meet on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum, which groups producers and consumers, in Algeria on September 26-28. However, analysts were doubtful on the prospects of an agreement.
“We remain skeptical that renewed talks of a production freeze by Opec and other large producers will lead to a deal. Prices are only marginally above where they were when the group met in Doha in April and couldn’t agree to a deal,” ANZ analysts said in a note.
Oil prices were also helped by the falling dollar .DXY, which slipped to its lowest against a basket of major currencies since June 24 as traders marked down the odds of an interest rate increase by the Fed.
The minutes from July’s Federal Open Market Committee, released on Wednesday, showed members of the rate-setting group were generally upbeat about the US economic outlook but showed a bias against raising interest rates soon.
“The market’s take on the FOMC minutes is to read them in a somewhat more dovish fashion on the view that the Fed seems too divided to raise rates anytime soon,” said Alan Ruskin, global head of FX strategy at Deutsche Bank in New York.
US Treasury prices were little changed after Dudley’s comments and the jobless claims data.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes were flat in price for a yield of 1.562%.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index , which had fallen in the last four sessions on a run of weak company earnings, was up 0.5 percent.
MSCI’s All World index climbed 0.2% to head back toward a one-year high, pushed higher by a 0.5% rise in Asian shares, their biggest since August 8.
Japan’s Nikkei .N225 bucked the trend though, dropping 1.5% after data showed exports from the country falling at their fastest pace since the financial crisis.