U.S. Stocks Edge Lower as Congress Passes Tax Overhaul

By Riva Gold and Amrith Ramkumar Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. stocks edge lower after Congress passes tax bill

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-- Treasury yields climb to highest level since March

-- Micron Technology, FedEx among biggest gainers

U.S. stocks inched lower for the second consecutive day after Congress passed the largest overhaul of the U.S. tax system in three decades.

Wednesday's pause came as investors debated how much of the bill has already been priced into markets and what impact the changes will have on the economy. U.S. stocks have climbed to fresh highs recently, in part on expectations that the bill will boost corporate profits, particularly among banks and retailers, which tend to pay a higher effective tax rate.

"The question for 2018 is: Will there be a positive effect on growth from the tax cuts?" said Abi Oladimeji, chief investment officer at Thomas Miller Investment.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 28.10 points, or 0.1%, to 24726.65. The S&P 500 fell 2.22 points, or 0.1%, to 2679.25, and the Nasdaq Composite shed 2.89 points, or less than 0.1%, to 6960.96. All three indexes swung between small gains and losses throughout the session.

Stocks rose slightly after the House passed the $1.5 trillion tax cut for a second time due to procedural issues, before paring those gains. President Donald Trump may wait until next year to sign the bill.

Some analysts believe the tax shake-up could lift growth and inflation in the U.S., pushing up bond yields and prompting the Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy more quickly than anticipated. Some say a faster pace of interest-rate increases could threaten the stock-market rally, as accommodative central-bank policy in an improving global economy has supported stocks.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 2.497% from 2.464% Tuesday, its highest level since March.

"I think central bank policy broadly is probably the biggest risk next year," said Shannon Saccocia, chief investment strategist at Boston Private.

The latest batch of corporate earnings drove swings among individual stocks.

Micron Technology shares rose $1.77, or 4%, to $45.75 after the chip maker's latest quarterly sales and profits topped Wall Street estimates late Tuesday, as did the firm's projections for the current quarter. Even with the gains, the S&P 500 technology sector -- the index's best performer this year -- fell for the second session in a row.

Shares of FedEx climbed 8.53, or 3.5%, to 251.07. The freight carrier raised its 2018 fiscal-year projections after the market closed Tuesday following better-than-expected results for the most recent quarter. The company said its full-year estimates could jump if the tax overhaul passed.

Stitch Fix shares shed 2.42, or 9.8%, to 22.34 after the fashion startup reported strong customer gains late Tuesday but said profits were pinched by the costs of expanding into men's and plus-size apparel. The stock is still trading above its $15 initial public offering price.

Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.7%, weighed down by losses in technology and health-care companies. Spain's IBEX 35 Index declined 0.3%, one day before Catalans vote for a new regional assembly in an election that could determine next steps for separatists in the region.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average edged up 0.1%. Chinese equities fell, reversing some of Tuesday's gains. As China prepares to unveil its economic blueprint for 2018, people familiar with the plan say it will show that Beijing is finding it hard to cut debt without jeopardizing growth.

Kenan Machado contributed to this article.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com and Amrith Ramkumar at amrith.ramkumar@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 20, 2017 17:15 ET (22:15 GMT)