MARKET SNAPSHOT: Dow Struggles To Push Further Into Record As Tax Plan Nears Final Approval

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

FedEx rises after earnings

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Stock-market indexes were trading virtually unchanged on Wednesday, relinquishing modest opening gains as congressional Republicans were on the verge of sending a tax bill to President Donald Trump.

What are stock indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average , which was up as much as 80 points shorting after the open, last traded flat at 24,754. The blue-chip index is up more than 25% since the start of the year.

The S&P 500 was flat at 2,652, with seven of the 11 main sector trading higher.

The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 11 points, or 0.2%, to 6,952.

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What's driving the market?

It's all about tax cuts. The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a historic tax bill that includes a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, 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.

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.

What are strategists saying?

"While it's debatable who the real beneficiaries of the bill will be, stock markets have clearly benefited in anticipation of it, with major corporations being among the big winners of the bill," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in a note.

"With equity markets having risen more than 25% since Trump's election victory, at least in part due to his tax reform plans, it's likely that this is almost entirely priced in at this point so it will be interesting to see whether the rally can now be maintained until the end of the year, or whether the Santa rally will instead grind to a premature halt as investors lock in some profits," he added.

What stocks are in focus?

Shares of FedEx Corp.(FDX) advanced 3.4% 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) climbed 4.8% 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 13% after 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).

Red Hat Inc.(RHT) lost 3.9%, brushing off better-than-expected earnings (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/red-hat-stock-falls-after-company-earnings-2017-12-19) out late Tuesday.

Ahead of the bell on Wednesday, BlackBerry Ltd. (BB.T) reported revenue and profit ahead expectations, sending shares 11% higher.

General Mills Inc.(GIS) also reported revenue that beat forecasts and its shares were up 1.5%.

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 sales to come in at a 5.59 million annual pace 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 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-oil-benchmark-rises-as-supply-data-show-surprisingly-large-drawdown-2017-12-20) and gold (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gold-resumes-rise-as-dollar-steadies-after-senate-passes-us-tax-bill-2017-12-20) were both higher, while the ICE U.S. Dollar Index was flat around 93.469. The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond rose 2 basis points to 2.49%, the highest level since March.

Bitcoin futures (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bitcoin-plunges-more-than-1900-as-bitcoin-cash-surges-2017-12-19) slid 2.6% to $17,725.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 20, 2017 09:58 ET (14:58 GMT)