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US: Tech, bank shares slip after recent gains; health outperforms

Tuesday, December 13, 2016 - 07:10

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[NEW YORK] The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite fell on Monday after six sessions of gains, weighed by tech sector stocks, while a rally in energy shares petered out as crude oil gains withered.

Bank shares fell ahead of the Federal Reserve's last meeting for the year, set to begin Tuesday and expected to end on Wednesday with the year's first interest rate increase.

Traders cashed in gains in bank stocks ahead of the meeting, even if a rate hike, which on paper would benefit banks, is all but priced in.

The chances that the US central bank will not raise rates is "close to zero, but it's not zero," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

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The S&P 500 financial sector fell 0.9 per cent following five consecutive weeks of gains.

The benchmark's tech sector fell 0.5 per cent after posting its largest weekly advance in a year last week.

The healthcare sector was the biggest boost to both the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials.

Regeneron gained 3.8 per cent to US$387.10 after data on a competing drug combination from Novartis and Opthotech did not meet its main goal. Ophthotech shares tumbled 86.4 per cent.

Regeneron was the largest percentage gainer on both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 39.58 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 19,796.43, the S&P 500 lost 2.57 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 2,256.96 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 31.96 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 5,412.54.

The Dow posted the latest in a string of record closing highs.

Energy stocks on the S&P 500 rose as much as 2.5 per cent in early trading as crude oil prices soared around 6 per cent to levels not seen in a year and a half. The sector ended up 0.7 per cent, with both WTI and Brent crude barrels up less than 2 per cent.

The industrials sector was down 0.37 per cent, dragged down by defense stocks. Lockheed Martin declined 2.5 per cent to US$253.11, bouncing back from a session low of US$245.50, after US President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that the company's F-35 program and costs were "out of control".

Viacom fell 9.4 per cent to US$34.99. National Amusements withdrew its merger proposal for CBS and Viacom. Privately-held National Amusements is controlled by Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari Redstone.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals fell 12.9 per cent to US$115.08. The chief executive officer and chief financial officer resigned, a month after the drugmaker said it was investigating allegations related to sales practices of its flagship drug.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.79-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.23-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

About 7.4 billion shares changed hands in US exchanges, roughly in line with the average volume over the last 20 sessions.

REUTERS

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