MARKET SNAPSHOT: Dow Ready To Power To Fresh Record As Tax Plan Nears Final Approval

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

FedEx rises premarket after earnings

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U.S. stocks look set for an upbeat session on Wednesday, with the Dow industrials ready to power to a fresh record as Congressional Republicans were on the verge of sending a tax bill to President Donald Trump.

What are stock futures doing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 86 points, or 0.4%, to 24,861. The blue-chip benchmark on Tuesday slipped 0.2% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-set-for-more-records-in-continued-tax-driven-rally-2017-12-19) to end just 37.45 points below its all-time closing high. That means the index will open in fresh record territory on Wednesday if it holds its premarket gain.

Futures for the S&P 500 index added 7.90 points, or 0.3%, to 2,692, while those for the Nasdaq-100 index put on 17.75 points, or 0.3%, to 6,518.50.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite Index closed down by 0.3% and 0.4%, respectively, on Tuesday, both pulling back from record highs (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-set-for-more-records-in-continued-tax-driven-rally-2017-12-19).

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What's driving the market?

It's all about tax reform. The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a historic tax bill, sending it on for approval in the Senate. The Senate passed the overhaul early on Wednesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/republican-tax-bill-clears-house-and-heads-to-senate-for-vote-2017-12-19), but some minor provisions that break budget rules forced lawmakers to strip them out, requiring the House to vote again.

House leaders have scheduled a new tax vote for Wednesday morning. Applauding the passage of the bill in the Senate, Trump said that if the approval goes ahead in the House, a news conference at the White House will be held around 1 p.m. Eastern.

Hopes for tax cuts have boosted markets globally in recent weeks, partly because the package is seen as benefiting businesses and providing a boost to the economy. Among the plan's many features, the bill cuts the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%.

What are strategists saying?

"The reality is that the markets have been assuming that the tax reform bill would pass through Congress for some time now, meaning the bullishness on the reform has been largely priced in," said Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group, in a note.

"This explains the string of record highs in the U.S. stock markets over the past few sessions and the reason that the markets dipped [on Tuesday], despite a business-friendly bill being approved."

What stocks are in focus?

Shares of FedEx Corp.(FDX) advanced 2.6% ahead of the bell after the package-delivery giant late Tuesday reported second-quarter results that beat Wall Street expectations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fedex-stock-rises-on-companys-earnings-sales-beat-2017-12-19).

Chip company Micron Technology Inc.(MU) also climbed in Wednesday's premarket session, up 5.9% after late Tuesday reporting earnings ahead of forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/micron-shares-rise-after-hours-following-earnings-outlook-beat-2017-12-19).

On the downside, Stitch Fix Inc.(SFIX) plunged 12% before the market open. The online clothing retailer late Tuesday reported earnings that topped forecasts, but the result did't reflect the "blowout quarter" bulls were hoping for (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/stitch-fix-earnings-show-profit-after-ipo-but-stock-still-suffers-2017-12-19).

Ahead of the bell on Wednesday, General Mills Inc.(GIS) and BlackBerry Ltd.(BB.T) are slated to report.

What's new on the economic front?

A report on existing home sales due at 10 a.m. is the only major economic data set on the docket on Wednesday. Economists polled by MarketWatch expect 5.59 million homes sold in November, up from 5.48 million in October (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/existing-home-sales-rebound-in-october-even-as-inventory-crunch-worsens-2017-11-21).

There were no Federal Reserve officials scheduled to speak.

See:MarketWatch's economic calendar (http://www.marketwatch.com/economy-politics/calendars/economic)

What are other markets doing?

Asian stock markets closed mixed (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/asian-markets-quiet-as-bitcoin-makes-noise-2017-12-19), while European markets mainly were lower (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-ease-as-pre-christmas-profit-taking-kicks-in-2017-12-20).

Oil and gold were both higher, while the ICE U.S. Dollar was flat around 93.456.

Bitcoin futures (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bitcoin-plunges-more-than-1900-as-bitcoin-cash-surges-2017-12-19) slid 4.3% to $17,415.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 20, 2017 05:37 ET (10:37 GMT)