NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks struggled to hold gains through the morning session on Wednesday after record job openings in July suggested to investors that the Federal Reserve was given another reason to hike rates sooner than later.
The S&P 500 rose 0.17%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.2%, and the Nasdaq gained 0.06%.
Job openings in the U.S. rose to 5.75 million in July from 5.32 million in June, according to the Labor Department. The July reading is the highest reading since the government began recording data in December 2000. The data is the latest to show significant tightening in the labor market, one of the Fed's signals for a rate hike.
World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu joined other high-ranking economists in calling for the Fed to delay a rate hike as the global economy faces uncertainty. International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde has also called upon the Fed to hold on raising rates for the first time since 2006.
"The world economy is looking so troubled that if the U.S. goes in for a very quick move in the middle of this I feel it is going to affect countries quite badly," Basu told The Financial Times.
The Fed will meet on Sept. 16-17 to determine whether the U.S. economy is strong enough to withstand a move off of crises-level interest rates.
But the likelihood of a September rate hike is looking less likely. The Fed funds futures is currently pricing in a probable hike at less than 25%.
"Relying on the latest data to make the final determinant, a slower-than-expected rise in August employment, a two-year low in manufacturing and two-month low in service activity, and another benign inflation report suggests some Fed officials may be increasingly reluctant to pull the trigger at the Sept. 17 meeting," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel.
Japan's Nikkei soared 7.7% overnight, its biggest session gain since October 2008, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scored three more years as head of the Liberal Democratic Party. Abe promised to cut the corporate tax rate by 3.3 percentage points next year, a move that was widely expected.
China's Shanghai Composite jumped more than 2% on promises of more monetary stimulus to jump-start the world's second-largest economy. The finance ministry announced plans to cut taxes for small businesses and to reallocate more funds into infrastructure projects, including two railway projects for nearly 70 billion yuan ($11 billion).
Monetary stimulus hopes in China drove markets higher on Tuesday. Wall Street came back from the Labor Day weekend with a bang as stocks surged more than 2% and the benchmark indexes reversed Friday's losses.
Apple (AAPL - Get Report) was slightly higher ahead of the company's widely anticipated product event Wednesday afternoon. Much of the event's hype surrounds the potential relaunch of Apple TV, but an updated line of iPhones and a bigger iPad are also expected to be unveiled.
Yahoo! (YHOO) shares was up 1% even after the company said a planned spinoff of its stake in Chinese e-retailer Alibaba (BABA - Get Report) had stumbled. The company said the Internal Revenue Service had rejected a special tax ruling request on the deal which would have saved Yahoo! money in the spinoff.
HD Supply Holdings (HDS - Get Report) added 0.4% after reporting second-quarter earnings. The industrial company earned 56 cents a share, 2 cents above estimates, while revenue of $2 billion was in-line with expectations and rose 6.4% from a year earlier.
Barnes & Noble (BKS) shares were down 14% after the company reported losses widened to 68 cents a share in its recent quarter from 56 cents a year earlier. Sales slid 1.6% to $1.22 billion. The company completed its spinoff of its education business into Barnes & Noble Education (BNED - Get Report) in August.
Stories about a possible rate hike: