Belfast Telegraph

Losses for drugmakers as hospitals pull stocks lower

US stocks declined for the third time in four days on Tuesday as health care companies took centre stage.

Drugmakers fell after President Donald Trump said he wanted to bring drug prices down.

Insurers rose and hospital companies dropped after Republicans in Congress introduced a bill intended to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies fell after Mr Trump said in a morning tweet that he intends to bring down drug prices.

The health care proposal gave big health insurers a boost, but hurt companies that do a lot of business with Medicaid.

It is not clear if the bill will pass the Senate, as several Republicans have already questioned it.

Stocks turned lower at the end of the day as that criticism increased, leaving the fate of the current bill, a key part of Mr Trump's agenda, uncertain.

Elsewhere, energy companies continued to slip and technology companies made smallish gains.

Stocks had not fallen for two consecutive days since the end of January, and set their latest record highs last Wednesday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 6.92 points, or 0.3%, to 2,368.39.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 29.58 points, or 0.1%, to 20,924.76.

The Nasdaq composite sagged 15.25 points, or 0.3%, to 5,833.93.

Two stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

On Thursday the current bull market will turn eight years old. It has lasted longer than any other since the Second World War except for the decade-long run that ended in early 2000.

Since the middle of 2015 drug companies have repeatedly tumbled as investors worried that the government would take action to reduce prices or at least curb price increases.

While Mr Trump has talked about dealing with the issue before, he has never discussed details.

Companies that make high-price drugs took some of the largest losses. Biotechnology company Alexion Pharmaceuticals shed 4.15 dollars, or 3.1 % , to 129.18 dollars.

Alexion makes Soliris, a high-priced drug that treats two rare genetic disorders.

Mallinckrodt, which has faced criticism over repeated increases in the price of its HP Acthar gel, gave up 1.55 dollars, or 3 % , to 49.71 dollars.

Pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts and biotech company Gilead Sciences each fell as they bickered over the price of Gilead's hepatitis C drugs, some of which are listed at 1,000 dollars a pill.

Express Scripts lost 2.66 dollars, or 3.8%, to 67.39 dollars and Gilead slid 1.10 dollars, or 1.6%, to 69.02 dollars.

The Republican health care legislation would provide tax credits for people buying their own insurance and would scale back the government's role in helping people afford coverage.

It would likely leave more Americans uninsured and would also overhaul Medicaid, a joint federal-state health programme for low-income Americans.

Hospital operators tumbled. Community Health Systems lost 9.3% and Tenet Healthcare sank 7.1%.

Insurers that do a lot of business with Medicaid, such as Molina Healthcare, also fell. But the largest national health insurers did better than the rest of the market. Humana added 5.21 dollars, or 2.4%, to 217.95 dollars, the largest gain among S&P 500 stocks.

Technology companies did better than the rest of the market. Video game maker Electronic Arts rose 1.16 dollars, or 1.3 % , to 88.30 dollars.

Data storage company Nimble Storage soared after it agreed to be bought by Hewlett Packard Enterprise at 12.50 dollars a share, or about one billion dollars. Its stock rose 3.98, dollars or 46.3 % , to 12.58 dollars.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.52% from 2.50%.