MARKET SNAPSHOT: Stock Market Takes A Breather After Hitting Records Ahead Of Tax-cut Vote

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

Tech-heavy Nasdaq under pressure

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U.S. stock-market indexes gave up opening gains and traded slightly lower on Tuesday, with the Dow and S&P 500 retreating from all-time intraday highs.

Investors kept their focus on the highly anticipated tax bill, which Republican leaders aim to deliver to President Trump for signing this week.

What are stock indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 44 points, or 0.2%, to 24,748, after hitting an all-time higher 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 3 points, or 0.1%, to 2,687 with six of the 11 main sectors trading lower. The real estate, utilities and technology sectors were leading the decliners, while consumer staples and energy led the gainers.

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The tech-concentrated Nasdaq Composite Index declined 22 points, or 0.3%, to 6,972.

What's driving the markets?

Hopes that the tax bill, which would slash corporate rates, will get approved before Christmas boosted stock markets world-wide and contributed to Monday's record push for U.S. indexes. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the final version on Tuesday, while the Senate vote is expected to follow either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

That should be enough time for the bill to land on President Donald Trump's desk for the final signature before Christmas, which is the Republicans' self-imposed deadline.

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?

"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.

"The secure passage of the tax plan is coming at the right time to class the next leg up in equity markets as the Santa rally, and it's very likely to lead to yet more record closes for the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq," said James Hughes, chief market analyst at AxiTrader, in a note.

"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, Minnesota, at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Which stocks are in focus?

Shares of Darden Resaturants, Inc.(DRI) rose 2.7% after the company's earnings and revenues beat Wall Street expectations.

Shares of General Motors Co.(GM) added 1% after analysts at RBC Capital Market upgraded the stock to outperform from sector perform.

Apple Inc.(AAPL) shares slipped 0.9% after analysts at Instinet cut the stock rating to neutral from buy.

Shares of LongFin Corp.(LFIN) slid 20% ahead of the open after skyrocketing 229% on Monday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/longfin-stock-nearly-quintuples-after-buying-a-blockchain-company-2017-12-18) and 308% on Friday after news it's buying blockchain technology provider Ziddu.com.

Cars.com Inc.(CARS) jumped 6.5% 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 5 basis points to 2.44%, 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) recovered earlier modest losses and moved to trade flat at 93.696.

Oil prices (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-modestly-higher-as-market-waits-for-inventory-data-2017-12-19) advanced 0.3%, 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 spot price fell 4.4% to $18,125.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 19, 2017 11:25 ET (16:25 GMT)