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US stocks end higher on charging energy shares

At the close, the Dow climbed 236 points to 34,813, while the S&P 500 rose 38 points at 4,481 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 124 points to 15,162

Manhattan skyline
New tepid economic data out of China added to concerns over the pace of global growth

4.05pm: Dow rebounds more than 200 points as oil price heats up    

US stocks made a late-day push to close well into positive territory, brushing off weaker-than-expected China retail sales data, as the West Texas Intermediate crude oil price powered up more than 3% on sliding inventories.

At the close, the Dow climbed 236 points to 34,813, while the S&P 500 rose 38 points at 4,481 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 124 points, or 0.8%, to 15,162.    

Notably movers included shares of Microsoft Corp, which added nearly 2% after the tech giant announced an 11% dividend increase and a $60 billion share repurchase program.

1pm: Stocks slightly in the green   

Stocks edged into positive territory in afternoon trading on Wednesday after dropping a day earlier, as September selling pressure returned to markets. New tepid economic data out of China added to concerns over the pace of global growth.

The tech-dominated Nasdaq fluctuated between small gains and losses. The Dow edged up by 188.18 points, or 0.5% to touch 34,765.75, steadying after the index shed nearly 300 points a day earlier. The S&P 500 climbed 0.6% to 4,472.80.

Apple shares are only modestly higher after a fairly lukewarm reaction to the company’s latest product launch. On the upside, the rise in energy prices is also feeding into gains for the likes of Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) and Occidental.  

The biggest movers to the downside have been the casino stocks of MGM Holdings, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) on the back of the regulatory crackdown in China, specifically targeting the island of Macau.  

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9.45am: US stocks start lower

US benchmarks went south in early trade Wednesday as traders continued to fret about growth issues and struggled to find positive catalysts.

Shortly after the bell, the DJIA lost around 22 points at 34,554, the S&P 500 was down  1.45 points at 4,441.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq shed over 18 points at 15,018.

"It seems there's a growing list of concerns for investors that spans beyond simply what the Fed is going to do. And this comes despite certain Fed officials giving the impression that they are undeterred by this. That may well change over the coming months," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Forex firm Oanda.

"Inflation is at the forefront of those concerns, perhaps why policymakers are so reluctant to wait, which makes it even more of a concern. Investors have been cracking on under the impression that inflation is transitory - as they've repeatedly been told - and tapering will come as a result of the economic recovery rendering it no longer necessary."

In the UK, inflation figures today showed last month's reading jumping to 3.2%, ahead of economists' expectations for 2.9%, and up from 2% in July and the highest rate since March 2012.

7.15am: Wall Street set for higher start

US stock futures point to a higher open in New York on Wednesday as investors try and brush aside fears over economic growth and the pandemic.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average are up around 18 points; the S&P 500 is ahead by 6.5 and the tech heavy Nasdaq is up over 36 points.

On Tuesday, US benchmarks finished lower. The DJIA fell by 291 points, or 0.83%, to 34,577, while the S&P 500 dropped 0.57% to 4,443. The Nasdaq dropped  0.45% to 15,037.

"We have seen increased signs of risk aversion across the financial markets in recent days, possibly because of fears over a slowdown in economic growth and rising inflation – or in other words, stagflation," said Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at ThinkMarkets.com.

"US government bond prices have started to rise again while volatility for equity markets have picked up somewhat and the safe-haven Japanese yen is just waking up from its summer slumber. Although some European indices and all major US index futures managed to regain some ground in the first half of today’s session, I wouldn’t be surprised if they go down again later on in the day."

Razaqzada says the Dow Jones will be the index "to watch closely as stagflation concerns mount".

Five more things to watch for on Wednesday:

The MBA's index of US mortgage application activity for the latest week is scheduled to be release on Wednesday.

The Empire State manufacturing index for September is due for release at 8:30 am ET. After a strong reading of 43 in June this year, it declined to 18.3 in July. Analysts expect the August's reading to recover slightly to 18.6.

Microsoft Corp, the computer giant, unveiled plans to buy back $60 billion worth of its shares. The company also declared a quarterly dividend of US$0.62 per share, an 11% increase on previous quarter. Microsoft’s board approved the appointment of Brad Smith as president and vice chair.

Shares in oilers are up in pre-market deals as oil prices climb, driven in part by disruption to output caused by Hurricane Ida. According to official data, over 39% of oil output in the Gulf of Mexico and 48% of gas output was offline Tuesday.

Stocks in US casino firms were trending lower on Wednesday after the Macau government set expectations for the future of the gambling industry there, including increased regulatory scrutiny

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