MARKET SNAPSHOT: Stock Market Ends Slightly Lower; Focus Remains On Tax Package

By Sara Sjolin and Anora M. Gaudiano, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Real estate, utilities, telecoms shares sell off

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U.S. stock-market indexes closed slightly lower Tuesday as the House of Representatives, as expected, passed a bill that would deliver sweeping corporate tax cuts.

The process hit a procedural snag after U.S. markets closed, however, which will force the House to vote again on the package (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/house-to-re-vote-on-tax-bill-wednesday-2017-12-19)Wednesday.

What are stock indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 37.45 points, or 0.2%, to 24,754.75, after hitting an all-time high earlier, at 24,876.07 shortly after the opening bell. The blue-chip index recorded its 70th record close of 2017 on Monday -- the most ever for a calendar year (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-dow-is-about-to-set-a-record-for-setting-records-2017-12-18), surpassing the 69 records made in 1995.

The S&P 500 fell 8.69 points, or 0.3%, to 2,681.47, with eight of the 11 main sectors finishing in negative territory. The real estate and utilities sectors led the decliners, falling nearly 2%. Telecoms fell 1%, while technology stocks fell 0.5%.

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The tech-concentrated Nasdaq Composite Index declined 30.91 points, or 0.4%, to 6,963.85.

What's driving the markets?

Hopes that the tax bill, which would slash corporate rates, will get approved before Christmas boosted stock markets worldwide and contributed to Monday's record push for U.S. indexes.

Read:Here's what's in the Republican tax deal (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-whats-in-the-republican-tax-deal-2017-12-13)

What are strategists saying?

Some analysts played down the selling pressure on Wall Street. "There is essentially no new news, and a very mild pullback after a huge run-up in stocks is not surprising," said Lisa Erickson, head of traditional investments for U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

"Unsurprisingly investors have ignored the nuances of the Republican tax 'reforms' -- especially the impact it will have on the American middle class -- to instead revel in what it means for the nation's mega-corporations and millionaires," said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, in a note.

What's new in economics?

Housing starts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/housing-starts-grind-higher-making-november-the-second-highest-pace-of-the-recovery-2017-12-19) ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.297 million in November, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That's 3.3% higher than a revised October pace, and 12.9% higher than a year ago.

Permits, which foreshadow future starts activity, fell 1.4% to a 1.298 million rate.

U.S. current-account deficit fell 19% to $100.6 billion in third quarter.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari will participate in a moderated Q&A at Lambda Alpha International in Roseville, Minn., at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Which stocks are in focus?

Shares of Darden Resaturants, Inc.(DRI) rose 6.8% after the company's earnings and revenues beat Wall Street expectations.

Shares of General Motors Co.(GM) added 0.8% after analysts at RBC Capital Market upgraded the stock to outperform from sector perform.

Apple Inc.(AAPL) shares slipped 1.1% after analysts at Instinet cut the stock rating to neutral from buy.

Cars.com Inc.(CARS) jumped 4.8% after news late Monday that activist investor Starboard Value LP bought a 9.9% stake in the company (https://www.wsj.com/articles/activist-starboard-value-buys-9-9-stake-in-cars-com-1513636271).

What are other markets doing?

Stocks in Asia (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/australian-stocks-at-best-levels-in-a-decade-as-asia-pacific-region-posts-broad-gains-2017-12-18) closed mixed, while European markets (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-build-on-rally-ahead-of-german-ifo-report-2017-12-19) mostly traded lower.

The 10-year Treasury yield (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/treasury-yields-rise-after-housing-data-as-house-set-to-vote-on-tax-bill-2017-12-19) rose 7 basis points to 2.46%, the highest level in more than seven weeks. The ICE U.S. dollar index (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-dollar-index-edges-lower-ahead-of-tax-vote-2017-12-19) was weaker, however, falling 0.3% to 93.440.

Oil prices (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-modestly-higher-as-market-waits-for-inventory-data-2017-12-19) advanced 0.6%, while gold futures (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gold-tries-for-five-wins-in-a-row-as-dollar-bond-yields-under-pressure-2017-12-19) traded lower at $1,262.80 an ounce.

Bitcoin futures fell 3% to $18,500, while bitcoin's spot price fell 4.4% to $18,125.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 19, 2017 17:07 ET (22:07 GMT)