(Updates prices, changes comment)
* Formal Brexit process begins
* U.S. crude up after data surprise
* Wall St little changed after posting gains Tuesday
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, March 29 (Reuters) - Stocks rose slightly on Wall Street on Wednesday, just enough to buoy a global equities index, while crude futures hit a week high after a smaller-than-expected build in U.S. inventories.
The U.S. dollar rose with support from various Federal Reserve officials’ remarks. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said he favors further rate hikes this year, while Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said the Fed should raise rates three more times in 2017.
Weighing on the euro and pound, Prime Minister Theresa May formally began Britain’s divorce from the European Union, a decision pitching her country into the unknown. On Tuesday, the Scottish Parliament backed a bid to hold an independence referendum that could break up the UK, adding another layer of uncertainty for investors.
Gains in the energy sector, up more than 1 percent, kept the S&P 500 afloat, while nine of the other ten sectors moved 0.4 percent or less.
Wall Street rose, with the Dow snapping an eight-day losing streak. Traders continue to assess the execution risk from a Trump administration that failed to pass its first major piece of legislation despite holding majorities in both chambers of Congress.
“The policy risk has increased ... but economic data still remains solid and therefore earnings should be good,” said Walter Todd, chief investment officer of Greenwood Capital in Greenwood, South Carolina. “Absent some revelation on the policy front, I think (earnings are) the next catalyst for the market.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 24.59 points, or 0.12 percent, to 20,676.91, the S&P 500 gained 4.12 points, or 0.17 percent, to 2,362.69 and the Nasdaq Composite added 25.23 points, or 0.43 percent, to 5,900.37.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.39 percent. MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe was up slightly.
Emerging market stocks rose 0.20 percent.
The dollar index gained 0.21 percent, with the euro down 0.41 percent to $1.0768. On Tuesday, the index posted its largest daily percentage increase since March 1.
Sterling hit a one-week low of 1.2378 earlier, and was last trading at $1.2442, down 0.05 percent.
“Sterling will be incredibly sensitive to (Brexit) negotiations, and will offer a clear gauge of how things are panning out. We could see it move lower still if negotiations take a sour turn - $1.10 is feasible,” said Neil Wilson, senior markets analyst at ETX Capital.
Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields fell after the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield hit a session high at 2.427 percent, higher than Tuesday‘s. 10-year notes last rose 8/32 in price to yield 2.3819 percent.
Oil prices rose after U.S. gasoline stockpiles dropped sharply last week, while crude inventories grew less than anticipated.
U.S. crude last rose 2.2 percent to $49.43 a barrel and Brent traded at $52.36, up 2.0 percent on the day.
Spot gold rose 0.1 percent to $1,253.24 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.2 percent to $1,253.00 an ounce.
Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Additional reporting by Dion Rabouin, David Gaffen and Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Nick Zieminski