Wall Street lower as deficit concerns stall tax bill progress


U.S. stocks fell in early trading on Friday amid concerns over the passage of a Republican tax overhaul as lawmakers debated over the bill's impact on the federal deficit.

Republicans were wrangling behind the scenes over how to raise $350 billion or more in taxes over 10 years to prevent their legislation from ballooning the federal deficit if the proposed cuts fail to generate the expected economic growth.

A surprise endorsement by Republican Senator John McCain added momentum to the bill on Thursday, pushing the S&P 500 to close at a record and the Dow Jones index to break above the 24,000 mark for the first time.

"Investors are taking a slightly cautious attitude after yesterday's surge because we are hitting a speed bump with the bill," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

The U.S. special counsel's office charged former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia's ambassador to the United States.

The Office of the Special Counsel said a plea hearing for Flynn had been set for 10:30 a.m. ET (1530 GMT) on Friday.

At 9:41 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 24.69 points, or 0.1 percent, at 24,247.66, the S&P 500 was down 1.83 points, or 0.07 percent, at 2,645.75 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 19.05 points, or 0.28 percent, at 6,854.93.

Energy index led the S&P gainers as oil prices rose about 1.5 percent after OPEC and other major producers agreed to extend output curbs until the end of 2018.

Technology stocks were the biggest decliners.

VMWare gained 2.5 percent after the virtualization software maker reported upbeat results as more customers licensed its products to help ease their move to cloud.

Ulta Beauty fell more than 4 percent after the cosmetic retailer's profit and sales forecast fell below estimates.

Blue Apron rose 4.35 percent after the meal-kit delivery company said its co-founder and chief executive Matt Salzberg would give up the role and be replaced by its chief financial officer.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,305 to 1,253. On the Nasdaq, 1,429 issues fell and 945 advanced.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)