MARKET SNAPSHOT: Stocks Struggle For Direction Amid Tax Uncertainty; GE Tumbles After Dividend Cut

By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch , Ryan Vlastelica Features Dow Jones Newswires

Dow industrials, S&P 500 are coming off their first weekly drop in 2 months

Continue Reading Below

U.S. stocks edged lower on Monday as uncertainty continued to swirl around the state of Republican tax-cut legislation, though strength in consumer staple stocks limited the day's weakness.

What are the main benchmarks doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 3 points to 23,420. The blue-chip average moved between positive and negative territory throughout the day, though it was off its lows as gains in Procter & Gamble Co. (PG), Boeing Co. (BA), and Home Depot Inc. (HD) counterbalanced sharp declines in shares of General Electric Co. (GE).

The S&P 500 slipped 1 point, or less than 0.1%, at 2,581. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 8 points, or 0.1%, to 6,743.

If the Dow and S&P 500 close lower on Monday, that will mark their third straight daily decline. The blue-chip average fell 0.5% last week while both the S&P and the Nasdaq slid 0.2%. Both the Dow and the S&P suffered their first weekly declines since early September (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dow-futures-slump-70-points-as-tax-delay-concerns-spook-investors-2017-11-10).

Continue Reading Below

All three indexes are within 1% of their own all-time highs. Thus far this year, the Dow has gained 18.5% while the S&P is up 15.3% and the Nasdaq has gained 25.3%.

What is moving markets?

Analysts have blamed the recent spate of selling on worries about delays in much-anticipated corporate tax cuts out of Washington. The three main stock gauges are still up by between 15% and 25% for the year, supported by factors such as an expanding U.S. economy and improving corporate profits.

Investors continue to monitor President Donald Trump's 13-day visit to Asia. On Monday, Trump said he had a "great relationship" with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and a White House official said human rights got only a brief mention as the two met in Manila, a Reuters report said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-trump-asia-philippines/trump-and-philippines-duterte-bond-at-asia-summit-rights-mentioned-briefly-idUSKBN1DD0FZ).

On Sunday night, the president teased (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-teases-trade-announcement-to-be-announced-wednesday-2017-11-12) a "major statement" on trade that he said he'll make Wednesday in Washington. "A lot of things are happening on trade and I'll be announcing pretty much what happened here and also with other meetings, including with China, South Korea and lots of other places," Trump said from Manila.

See:Trump calls Kim Jong Un 'short and fat,' then offers his mediation skills for South China Sea dispute (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-insults-north-korean-leader-then-offers-to-mediate-south-china-sea-dispute-2017-11-12)

What are strategists saying?

"The Senate bill differs from the House bill in significant ways, making delays likely as the two chambers work out their differences in conference committee," Morgan Stanley wrote in a note to clients. "There is a chance that the House could pass the Senate's final bill and be done with it, but the differences are so large that it feels unlikely to us at this point."

Katie Stockton, chief technical strategist at BTIG, wrote that "Global equity markets have seen a loss of short-term momentum that has finally given way to a pullback in the S&P 500 index."

She added, "A pullback in the 2%-3% range might be enough to relieve the market of 'overly bullish' sentiment without generating a lot of breakdowns or affecting positive intermediate-term momentum," Stockton said. It has been a historically long time (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sp-500-is-poised-to-make-uncanny-stock-market-historyfor-doing-almost-nothing-2017-10-12) since the market has seen a 3% decline from a peak, which are typically very common.

What are other assets doing?

European stocks pulled back, and the pound dropped as British Prime Minister Theresa May faces fresh pressure (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/pound-slides-as-british-government-faces-turmoil-2017-11-13) to resign.

Read Brett Arends on:Brexit hard-liners are selling England by the pound (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/brexit-hardliners-are-selling-england-by-the-pound-2017-11-09)

Most Asian markets closed lower (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nikkei-slumps-again-as-asian-markets-decline-2017-11-12), with the Nikkei falling the most since April, but Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index managed a modest gain. Gold futures and the ICE U.S. Dollar Index were higher.

The U.S. oil benchmark was up slightly, as a United Arab Emirates official said (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/13/opec-likely-to-extend-supply-cuts-in-bid-to-rebalance-the-market-uae-energy-minister-suhail-al-mazroui-says.html) he expects major producers to extend global supply cuts at a closely watched meeting at the end of the month.

Check out:Should oil really be trading above $60 a barrel? (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/should-oil-really-be-trading-above-60-a-barrel-2017-11-10)

Which stocks look like key movers?

GE fell 4.1% following news the conglomerate plans to cut its dividend by half (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ge-plans-to-slash-dividend-by-50-2017-11-13), with the conglomerate saying the move will help its effort to drive up growth and value for shareholders. GE was also expected to announce a focus on three of its biggest business lines (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ge-to-focus-on-3-key-units-pull-back-from-transportation-2017-11-13), but not a more radical restructuring. The stock has lost more than 38% thus far this year, compared with the 15% rise of the S&P 500 over the same period.

Shares in Mattel Inc.(MAT) jumped 20% in the wake of a report late Friday that rival toy maker Hasbro Inc.(HAS) has made a takeover offer (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/hasbro-makes-an-offer-to-buy-rival-mattel-2017-11-1). Shares of Hasbro were up 7%.

Tyson Foods Inc.'s stock (TSN) gained 1% after the company posted better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tyson-shares-rise-after-earnings-and-sales-beat-2017-11-13).

Shares in Boeing rose 0.2% after the aerospace giant scored a $15 billion deal with Emirates Airline (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/boeing-seals-151-billion-emirates-airlines-deal-2017-11-12). The Dow component has gained nearly 70% in 2017.

GGP Inc.(GGP) rose about 6.3% as Brookfield Property Partners LP(BPY) has made a $14.8 billion offer (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/brookfield-property-offers-148-billion-to-buy-mall-owner-ggp-2017-11-12) to acquire the shares of the mall owner that it doesn't already own. Shares of Brookfield fell 3.3%.

Shares of Nektar Therapeutics(NKTR) soared 19% after the biopharmaceutical company announced over the weekend positive data from a trial of its cancer treatment (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nektar-therapeutics-stock-rockets-toward-near-17-year-high-after-upbeat-trial-data-2017-11-13).

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (VRX.T) said it was launching a private offering of $750 million worth of notes due 2025 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/valeant-issues-750-million-in-debt-to-pay-down-debt-2017-11-13), paying 5.500%. The drugmaker plans to use the proceeds from the debt offering to repay a portion of term loan facilities due 2022. Shares of Valeant dropped 2%.

The consumer staples sector rose 0.5% as the strongest performer of the day. The group was supported by gains in Procter & Gamble, which rose 1.1%, as well as Dow component Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), up 1%.

What economic news is ahead?

Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker in a speech Sunday pulled back slightly in his support (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/feds-harker-pulls-back-slightly-his-support-for-a-december-rate-hike-2017-11-12) for a December interest-rate hike. No Federal Reserve officials are schedule to speak on Monday, but on Tuesday, departing Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen is due to take part in a panel discussion with heads of other major central banks.

Read: With hurricane noise beginning to soften, economic focus turns to Fedspeak (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/with-hurricane-noise-beginning-to-soften-economic-focus-turns-to-fedspeak-2017-11-11)

An October report on the U.S. federal budget is due at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Check out:MarketWatch's Economic Calendar (http://www.marketwatch.com/economy-politics/calendars/economic)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 13, 2017 11:18 ET (16:18 GMT)