Wall Street opens modestly lower, energy shares underperform

  • US stocks open lower as markets remain risk-averse on Friday.
  • S&P 500 Energy Index is down more than 2%.
  • Heightened US-China tensions offset coronavirus vaccine optimism.

Wall Street's three main indexes started the last day of the week in the negative territory but losses remain relatively small for the time being. As of writing, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were both down 0.4% on the day while the Nasdaq Composite was falling 0.55% at 9,326 points.

Risk aversion continues to dominate markets

Although optimism about a coronavirus vaccine helped US stock futures indexes pull away from daily lows earlier in the day, heightened US-China tensions continue to force investors to remain cautious.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Friday that he was "cautiously optimistic" about Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. 

On the other hand, China released draft legislation that is seen as Beijing's attempt to ramp up its control over Hong Kong. Regarding the US' protest over this legislation, China's Foreign Ministry in a statement said that China will fight back if the US were to try to oppress them.

Among the 11 major S&P 500 sectors, the ENergy Index is down 2.3% as the top-decliner in the early trade. On the other hand, the defensive Real Estate Index is up 0.4%.

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