SOFIA, Bulgaria | US stocks veer mostly higher in morning trade; oil slides

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — A top European Union official branded President Donald Trump selfish and capricious Wednesday as EU leaders gathered to count the likely economic damage U.S. policies might inflict on the bloc and to try to rescue the Iran nuclear deal.

In a striking rhetorical assault on the leader of Europe’s biggest ally, EU Council President Donald Tusk said, given Trump’s recent decisions, “someone could even think ‘with friends like that, who needs enemies?'”

Trump has bewildered the Europeans by threatening to slap tariffs on EU steel and aluminum exports and reneging on an agreement to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, which the EU believes is vital to world security. Trump has also broken with a key international principle of Middle East peace efforts by moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Tusk’s remarks, just hours before he was to chair a meeting in Bulgaria of the 28 leaders of the world’s biggest trading bloc, underscored the widening gulf in EU-U.S. relations.

Listing Europe’s traditional challenges, ranging from the expanding power of China to the belligerence of Russia, Tusk said: “We are witnessing today a new phenomenon, the capricious assertiveness of the American administration.”

“Frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions. He has made us realize that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm,” Tusk said.

In dinner talks in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, EU leaders will be briefed on possible incentives to keep Tehran in the nuclear agreement, even after a key player like the U.S. pulled out. The U.S. move has paved the way for U.S. sanctions that are likely to hit European companies doing business with Iran.

The options being discussed include new credit lines for Iran, increased energy cooperation and the use of EU laws to block European companies from caving in to U.S. sanctions.

“I want leaders to reconfirm that the EU sticks to the deal as US stocks veer mostly higher in morning trade; oil slides
By ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writer
U.S. stock indexes edged mostly higher in morning trading Wednesday as gains in health care companies and retailers outweigh losses in banks and utilities. Consumer goods companies also posted gains. Energy stocks were among the laggards as crude oil prices declined.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,714 as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow slid 21 points, or 0.1 percent, to 24,685. The Nasdaq composite added 18 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,369. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 6 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,607.

THE QUOTE: “Earnings growth has shown through and that’s been primarily based on strong fundamental growth from U.S. companies,” said Jamie Lavin, global investment specialist at J.P.

Morgan Private Bank. “And when equity markets are able to look through to that and we don’t have any major geopolitical headlines, we tend to have stronger days in the market.”

HEALTHY TURN: Health care sector companies notched solid gains. Align Technology rose 2.7 percent to $291.29.

RETAIL RALLY: Macy’s jumped 9.2 percent to $32.69 after reporting quarterly results that were far better than analysts were expecting.

The company said its Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury divisions as well as its flagship store brand all did well. Several other retailers also moved higher. Norstrom added 0.7 percent to $50.22, while L Brands gained 2.6 percent to $34.18. Target shares picked up 2.8 percent to $75.16.

ENCOURAGING UPDATE: Office Depot rose 3.4 percent to $2.42 after the office supply company maintained its forecasts for the year.

FIDO APPROVED: Abaxis vaulted 15.6 percent to $82.94 after the veterinary diagnostic products company agreed to be acquired by Zoetis.

WARREN’S WAY: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries climbed 3.3 percent to $20.98 after Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway more than doubled the size of its investment in the Israeli drugmaker. Phillips 66 fell 1.2 percent to $116.93 after the Berkshire sold about half of its investment in the oil and gas company.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 3.09 percent from 3.07 percent late Tuesday, when the yield climbed to its highest level in nearly seven years.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil gave up 28 cents to $71.03 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oil, shed 28 cents to $78.15 a barrel in London.

The slide in crude prices pulled down energy stocks. Newfield Exploration slid 1.2 percent to $28.77.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 110.29 yen from 110.38 yen on Tuesday. The euro weakened to $1.1784 from $1.1847.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major indexes in Europe rose. Germany’s DAX gained 0.1 percent, while France’s CAC 40 added 0.2 percent.

Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock index lost 0.4 percent following new data showing that Japan’s economy contracted in the first quarter. The Kospi in South Korea was essentially flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.1 percent.

ong as Iran does. The deal is good for European and global security,” said Tusk.

The leaders will also discuss Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, which could be slapped on the EU after June 1. Trump says the tariffs are needed for national security reasons. The Europeans, most of them U.S. allies in NATO, say they pose no security threat and that it is simply an excuse to break with the rules-based order of the World Trade Organization.

“It is absurd to even think that the EU could be a threat to the U.S. We need to bring back reality in this discussion,” Tusk said.

Trump’s decision to relocate the U.S. embassy to the contested city of Jerusalem will also be raised. Some EU leaders have made a direct link between the move and the killing of almost 60 Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel is calling for an international investigation.

“It’s a moment that sends a shiver down your spine. Because there is a striking contrast between, on the one hand, an inauguration in great splendor, with smiles, and on the other hand, the drama, and families today that are in mourning with innocent children who are the victims of this situation,” Michel told state broadcaster RTBF.

“We knew that there was a great risk, that this decision to move moving the embassy would bring less security, bring tragedies, and sadly we were right,” he said.

But the EU is anything but united and finding consensus will not be easy.

Some countries sent representatives to the U.S. Jerusalem embassy opening on Monday and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania blocked an EU effort to publish a statement critical of the U.S. move.

By ALEX VEIGA ,  By Associated Press – published on STL.News by St. Louis Media, LLC(R.A)