Historical Stock Chart
6 Months : From Dec 2016 to Jun 2017
By Joseph Adinolfi and Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
Nasdaq Composite flirts with positive territory
U.S. stocks traded lower Friday, leaving the Dow on track to see its record run snapped, weighed by a tumble in shares of UnitedHealth Group.
Market participants have attributed the stall-out to investors taking a breather, after a string of healthy gains and Wall Street's reluctance to make bullish bets ahead of the Presidents Day holiday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average eased by 68 points, or 0.3%, to 20,549, with a 3% drop in UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) responsible for the bulk of the blue-chip benchmark's decline. The company, the country's largest health insurer, is being sued by the Justice Department for allegedly overcharging Medicare, according to reports (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/business/dealbook/unitedhealthcare-improperly-took-money-from-medicare-suit-says.html?_r=1). The insurer was cutting about 50 points from the Dow industrials in late-morning trade.
The S&P 500 index slipped 4 points, or 0.1%, to 2,343, with financials and telecommunications shares leading the broad-market index lower.
The Nasdaq Composite Index bounced around between small gains and losses, and was trading most recently trading flat at 5,813.
Euphoria surrounding President Donald Trump's proposed economic policies--fueled by optimism around the prospect of tax cuts and increased infrastructure spending--have helped to push U.S. stocks to all-time highs.
But Mohannad Aama, managing director at Beam Capital Management, expects the market to take an extended breather, he said, because "we've fully priced in the potential for policy improvements as it relates to the stock market."
In deal news, shares of Kraft Heinz Co.(KHC)and Unilever PLC(ULVR.LN)(UNA.AE) (ULVR.LN)rocketed higher after Kraft said Unilver had rejected its initial merger offer. The company indicated that talks were still ongoing (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/kraft-heinz-confirms-merger-proposal-with-unilver-was-declined-2017-02-17).
Need to Know:Tempted to cash in on the market rally? Why Tesla may be a good place to start (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tempted-to-cash-in-on-the-market-rally-why-tesla-may-be-a-good-place-to-start-2017-02-17)
Driven by losses in the energy sector, U.S. stocks pulled back from a string of simultaneous records on Thursday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-in-holding-pattern-after-best-record-run-in-25-years-2017-02-16), with only the Dow managing to eke out a fresh high--it gained less than 0.1% to close at 20,619.77. The S&P 500 index closed down 0.1% to 2,347.22, and the Nasdaq also lost 0.1% to finish at 5,814.90.
The pullback came partly after a White House news conference in which Trump revealed that tax-reform proposals (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-says-health-care-proposal-coming-in-march-2017-02-16) will take precedence only after a push to replace Obamacare in March.
This announcement could lead to an extended decline in stocks, said Lee Wild, head of equity strategy at Interactive Investor. "A pullback on tax reform seems to be the biggest banana skin" for investors, Wild said in a note to clients.
Opinion:Trump's tax reform looks like just another of his tweets (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trumps-tax-promise-looks-like-just-another-of-his-tweets-2017-02-16)
Others believe the market rally could have more room to run once investors have a clearer picture of Trump's plans for tax reform and the health-care overhaul.
"I still remain optimistic on the market going forward," said Gary Anetsberger, chief executive officer at Millennium Trust Co.
For the week, the Dow industrials are on pace to gain 1.4%, while the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 are looking at advances of 1.1% and 1.2%.
The Presidents Day holiday will shutter stock and bond markets on Monday (), meaning there may be little appetite to build new positions on Friday, Wild said.
Read:Investors might finally be recognizing risk in the stock market (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/investors-might-be-finally-recognizing-risk-in-the-stock-market-2017-02-16)
In the lengthy and wide-ranging news conference on Thursday, Trump spoke of inheriting a "mess" (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/a-look-at-the-economy-trump-inherited-which-he-calls-a-mess-2017-02-16) from President Barack Obama and sparred with members of the media and the mainstream media more generally.
Wild noted that the market will be eager to hear what the president has to say in an address to Congress on Feb. 28.
Stock movers: Shares of Deere & Co.(DE)rose 1.3% after earnings and sales beat forecasts. The maker of construction equipment offered up an upbeat outlook (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/deeres-stock-jumps-after-profit-and-sales-beat-upbeat-outlook-2017-02-17).
J.M. Smucker Co. shares(SJM)fell 4.3% after the jam maker's results.
Campbell Soup Co. shares(CPB)fell 5% after second-quarter profit and revenue missed forecasts.
General Mills Inc. shares(GIS)fell 3.2% after the company lowered its sales outlook (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/general-mills-shares-drop-after-it-lowers-sales-outlook-2017-02-17).
Read:What to expect from Deere earnings (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/deere-earnings-what-to-expect-2017-02-16)
Shares of WebMD Health Corp.(WBMD)were halted late Thursday after the online health information group said it may put itself up for sale (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/webmd-stock-halted-company-may-sell-itself-2017-02-16). But the shares were flat in recent trade.
Other markets: Asian stocksfinished mostly lower after U.S. stocks largely stepped back from their record run. European stocksslipped (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-slip-trimming-their-gain-for-the-week-2017-02-17).
The dollarwas slightly lower against the yen (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dollar-flattens-out-ahead-of-three-day-weekend-in-the-us-2017-02-17).
Oil prices (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-rise-moderately-on-hopes-for-more-cuts-from-opec-2017-02-17)declined, while gold was essentially flat.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 17, 2017 10:59 ET (15:59 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.