Belfast Telegraph

Stocks manage mixed finish after Republicans cancel vote on health care bill

US stocks flirted with sharp losses but managed a mixed finish after Republicans cancelled a vote on their health care bill because it became clear the bill would fail.

Investors did not trade much as they waited for answers about the state of President Donald Trump's business-friendly agenda.

For the second day in a row, stocks started higher and wilted as it became clear the health care bill was in trouble.

The Dow Jones industrial average plunged as much as 126 points in afternoon trading on reports of the bill's impending failure, although Wall Street cut its losses after the vote was cancelled.

Consumer-focused companies like Nike, Starbucks and clothing company PVH rose.

The health care act became something of a proxy for the rest of the Trump agenda and it dominated the market for most of this week.

Banks and small-company stocks, which made huge gains after Trump was elected, both suffered their biggest losses in more than a year.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index finished down 1.98 points, or 0.1%, at 2,343.98.

The Dow lost 59.86 points, or 0.3%, to 20,596.72 as Goldman Sachs and Boeing sank.

Technology companies inched higher and the Nasdaq composite rose 11.04 points, or 0.2%, to 5,828.74.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 1.22 points, or 0.1%, to 1,354.64.

Trading was relatively quiet, which may have contributed to the big fluctuations.

Hospitals and insurers that do a lot of business with Medicaid celebrated the demise of the bill.

HCA Holdings, the largest US hospital company, climbed 2.87 dollars, or 3.5%, to 86.04 dollars and Community Health Systems jumped 84 cents, or 9.7%, to 9.54 dollars.

Among Medicaid-focused companies, Centene and Molina Healthcare each gained about 5%.

The American Health Care Act would probably have left more Americans uninsured and would make big changes to Medicaid, a joint federal-state health programme for low-income Americans.

Those stocks fell when it was introduced because investors were concerned hospitals would have to take in more patients who lack insurance and that insurers would get less money from Medicaid.

With the 2010 Affordable Care Act alive for another day, insurance companies slumped. Cigna fell 3.36 dollars, or 2.3%, to 142.82 dollars and Anthem shed 2.63 dollars, or 1.6%, to 126.77 dollars.

With Trump and majority Republicans unable to pass the first big item on their agenda, there were some signs of concern that his proposals of tax cuts, infrastructure spending, and regulatory cuts will take longer.

Those are aspects of Trump's proposed agenda Wall Street is excited about.

Vulcan Materials, a construction materials maker, sank 2.65 dollars, or 2.3%, to 112.74 dollars. Steel maker Nucor declined 1.50 dollars, or 2.4%, to 59.76 dollars. Construction and machinery companies also stumbled. Engine maker Cummins shed 1.45 dollars, or 1%, to 150.77 dollars and Boeing sank 1.44 dollars to 175.82 dollars.

Bond prices rose slightly. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.41 % from 2.42 % .