U.S. stocks were jittery Wednesday as European Union finance ministers gathered for an emergency meeting in Brussels to discuss plans for Greece’s bailout, reigniting concerns of a possible Greek exit from the eurozone. Separately, oil prices continued to decline Wednesday, weighed down after U.S. oil inventories surged to an 80-year high.
In early trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, measuring the share prices of 30 large industrial companies, dropped 69.52 points, or 0.39 percent, at 17,799.24, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index lost 2.50 points, or 0.12 percent, at 2,066.09. However, the Nasdaq Composite added 16.83 points, or 0.35 percent, at 4,804.47.
Global financial markets have been cautious this week after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras rejected an extension of the country’s $270 billion bailout program on Sunday. “While some solution appears possible, it won’t address Greece’s longer-term debt problems,” Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist for Capital Economics, said in a research note Tuesday. “A lasting solution to Greece’s debt burden which will ensure its future in the currency union still appears as remote as ever.”
Investors await a possible debt deal as eurozone finance ministers meet in Brussels Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. EST.
Oil prices fell below $50 a barrel Wednesday, weighed down after U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased by 4.9 million barrels for the week ended Feb. 6, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its Weekly Petroleum Status Report Wednesday. At 417.9 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are at the highest level for this time of year in at least 80 years.
After the release of the report, Brent crude, the benchmark for global oil prices, fell 3.77 percent to $54.30 a barrel for March 15 delivery on the London ICE Futures Exchange. Meanwhile, West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, lost 3.56 percent to $48.24 a barrel for March 15 delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Tech giant Apple Inc. opened at a new all-time high Wednesday of $122.77 a share after the stock closed at $122.02 a share Tuesday, giving the firm a record market capitalization of more than $700 billion and marking the first time a U.S. company has reached the milestone.