Stocks turn lower as vote on health care bill is delayed
Stocks gave up an early rally and are falling in late trading after Republican leadership delayed a vote on their health care bill amid mounting doubts the legislation has enough votes to pass. Investors are worried that that means trouble for the business-friendly agenda of Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump. Google's parent company, Alphabet, leads technology stocks lower as a number of companies say they will stop advertising
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,344 as of 3:35 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 11 points, or 0.1 percent, to 20,650. The Nasdaq composite shed 10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 5,811. The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller companies, did far better than the rest of the market. It gained 5 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,351.
The Dow rose as much as 96 points around 1 p.m. but the gains thinned out as holdout Republicans continued to express doubts about the American Health Care Act. Stocks began falling just before 3 p.m. before the vote on the bill, scheduled for Thursday, was delayed. The proposal is a centerpiece of the Republican agenda, which also includes cuts to taxes and regulations and greater infrastructure spending.
HEALTHCARE VOTE: House Republican leadership is delaying a vote on the health care bill because it doesn't have enough votes. Concessions being offered to the conservatives, who sought to limit requirements for health plans to offer benefits including substance abuse and maternity care, appeared to scare off some more moderate Republicans.
Companies that run Medicaid programs, like Centene and Molina Healthcare, stumbled in afternoon trading and health insurance companies like UnitedHealth and Humana took small losses. Hospital operators traded higher.
THE QUOTE: Jamie Cox, managing partner for Harris Financial Group, said stocks probably won't fall much further if the bill ultimately fails because investors aren't concerned about the health care proposal. They're interested in the tax reform package Republicans want to pass, but the party's inability to come together raises questions about the rest of its agenda.
"The market doesn't care a bit about the health care legislation," he said, but "if the Republicans are having such a difficult time making changes to something they universally agree upon, how on earth are they going to agree on the more complicated tax cut that is coming through later in the year?"
BONDS: Bond prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which has skidded over the last few days, rose to 2.42 percent from 2.40 percent. That modest increase gave banks and other financial companies a lift.
The S&P 500 banking index plunged 5 percent over the previous four days as bond yields and interest rates decreased. SunTrust Banks added $1, or 1.8 percent, to $55.18 and Citigroup gained 48 cents to $58.25.
That will make lending money more profitable by forcing interest rates on loans higher. Google's parent company, Alphabet, leads technology stocks lower as a number of companies say they will stop advertising on YouTube because they don't want their ads appearing alongside offensive videos.
YOUTUBE AD BOYCOTT: Alphabet fell as a YouTube advertising boycott spread. Companies including Johnson & Johnson, AT&T and Verizon have suspended their YouTube ad campaigns in the last week because their ads were appearing alongside offensive videos, including some that promoted terrorism. The ads are placed automatically and Google has said it will do more to block offensive videos. YouTube is one of the fastest-growing parts of Google's ad system.
Alphabet lost $11.30 or 1.3 percent, to $838.50. Technology companies lagged the rest of the market, as Alphabet is the second-most valuable company on the S&P 500 after Apple.
RETAIL REBOUND: PVH, which owns the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, jumped after its fourth-quarter profit and sales topped analyst estimates. It said sales for the Hilfiger brand grew in the latest quarter and its business is doing well in spite of high discounts in the U.S. The stock gained $7.45, or 8.2 percent, to $98.30.
Discount retailer Five Below also climbed after it surpassed Wall Street projections in its fourth quarter. The stock rose $4.28, or 11.2 percent, to $42.41. Retailers have struggled in recent months, but consumer-focused companies did better than the broader market on Thursday. Nike, which plunged 7 percent one day earlier, recovered $1.43, or 2.7 percent, to $55.36.
HITTING REVERSE: Ford dipped after the automaker forecast a profit of 30 to 35 cents a share in the first quarter, far below the 47 cents per share analysts expected. Ford said its profit will decrease compared to last year because of higher costs for commodities, warranties, and business investments, and lower sales volumes. The stock fell 16, or 1.4 percent, to $11.61.
ENERGY: U.S. crude oil lost 34 cents to $47.70 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 8 cents to $50.56 a barrel in London.
METALS: Gold fell $2.50 to $1,247.20 an ounce, which ended a small five-day streak of gains. Silver rose 2 cents to $17.59 an ounce. Copper picked up 1 cent to $2.64 a pound.
OTHER ENERGY TRADING: Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $1.59 a gallon. Heating oil lost 1 cent to$1.49 a gallon. Natural gas rose 4 cents to $3.05 per 1,000 cubic feet.
CURRENCIES: The dollar inched up to 111.07 yen from 110.92 yen. The euro slid to $1.0786 from $1.0798.
OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX jumped 1.1 percent and the CAC 40 in France rose 0.8 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 index added 0.2 percent. In Japan the Nikkei 225 gained 0.2 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was flat and the South Korean Kospi gained 0.2 percent.
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