U.S. Stocks Mostly Higher Ahead of Uncertain Health-Care Vote

Wall Street, Markets, Stocks, health care
(Reuters/Andrew Kelly/File)

U.S. stocks are mostly higher Friday, as technology companies and banks climb. For most of this week, investors have been waiting for answers about the fate of the Republican-backed American Health Care Act, which is scheduled to come up for a vote later Friday after it was delayed a day earlier. Stocks are on track for their biggest weekly loss of 2017.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index picked up 8 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,354 as of 11:53 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 34 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,690. The Nasdaq composite jumped 39 points, or 0.7 percent, to 5,856. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks advanced 8 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,361.

TECH LEADS: Technology companies made the biggest gains on the market, continuing a strong run over the last few months. Chipmaker Micron Technology surged $2.31, or 8.7 percent, to $28.78 after its second-quarter earnings were much better than analysts had expected, and data-storage company Western Digital jumped $2.96, or 3.9 percent, to $79.15.

Banks moved higher as they continued a slow recovery from a four-day sell-off. Wells Fargo rose 65 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $55.90 and Lincoln National gained 69 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $64.51.

Also rising were utility companies and consumer-focused companies like Starbucks, Nike and clothing company PVH.

HEALTH-BILL HOLDUP: Stocks were higher for most of the day on Thursday, but most of those gains dissipated after House Republicans postponed the health-care vote because of a lack of support. Investors aren’t overwhelmingly concerned about the health-care proposal itself, but they wonder if a protracted debate or a failed bill would delay aspects of President Donald Trump’s agenda that the market is excited about. Those include tax cuts, greater infrastructure spending and cuts in regulations.

The 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 make big changes to Medicaid, a joint federal-state health program for low-income Americans.

Health-care investors appeared to be wagering that the bill will fail. Hospital operators rose, as did insurers that do a lot of business with Medicaid. When the act was introduced, those stocks traded lower because investors were concerned that hospitals would have to take in more patients who lack insurance and that insurers would get less money from Medicaid. The largest national health insurers were mixed Friday.

MAKING A SPLASH: SeaWorld Entertainment jumped after a big investment from China. SeaWorld said that real-estate holding company Zhonghong Zhuoye Group bought a 21 percent stake from Blackstone Group. It said that the Chinese firm paid $23 a share, and that an executive will join SeaWorld’s board. The stock has struggled in recent years because of controversy about the conditions of SeaWorld’s killer whales, which hurt attendance. The stock gained $1.14, or 6.6 percent, to $18.45 Friday.

FULL STOP: Video-game retailer GameStop disclosed weaker-than-expected revenue as consumers cut back on shopping while they waited for companies to start introducing new game systems. GameStop’s forecasts for this year fell far short of analysts’ forecasts. The company said it expects to earn between $3.10 and $3.40 per share in its current fiscal year, while FactSet says that analysts had expected $3.73 a share. The stock dropped $3.04, or 12.7 percent, to $20.92.

NOT A PHOTO FINISH: Shoe store The Finish Line slumped after the company said that it had to cut prices in the fourth quarter because consumers didn’t like some of its products. Like many other retailers, it also faced generally tough business conditions. The company reported a loss thanks to impairment charges and it cut its annual profit outlook. The stock shed $2.80, or 17.5 percent, to $13.26.

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

ENERGY: U.S. crude-oil futures rose 2 cents to $47.72 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 1 cent to $50.65 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar inched down to 111.05 yen from 111.07 yen. The euro edged up to $1.0804 from $1.0786.

OVERSEAS: The German DAX added 0.3 percent and the French CAC 40 dropped 0.2 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 index was little-changed. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.9 percent following recent losses. The Kospi of South Korea dipped 0.2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng reversed earlier losses to finish 0.1 percent higher.

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