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US: Stocks mostly rise as tax cut gains in Congress

[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished mostly higher on Thursday following generally solid earnings and congressional progress on President Donald Trump's much-anticipated tax cut.

But health and pharma shares were under pressure, with drug distributors stumbling on worries about Mr Trump's crackdown on opioids and pharma shares declining after biotech company Celgene slashed its long-term targets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3 per cent to 23,400.86.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 0.1 per cent to 2,560.40, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 0.1 per cent to 6,556.77.

Companies that rose after earnings included Ford, up 1.9 per cent, and UPS, which advanced 0.7 per cent. Solid earnings have been a key factor in a run of Wall Street records over the last month.

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Stocks have also been lifted by congressional action on the proposed tax cut, which Thursday passed a clear hurdle when the House approved a budget resolution that opens the way for US$1.5 trillion in tax cuts.

"Good the budget got out of the House," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. "It's the next step in tax reform." But health was the laggard among S&P sectors, with shares of drug distribution companies diving after Trump warned the Justice Department could bring lawsuits against "bad actors" responsible for the crisis.

Cardinal Health, which was spotlighted in a recent 60 Minutes report on the opioid crisis, fell 4.2 per cent, while AmerisourceBergen dropped 3.5 per cent and McKesson 5.2 per cent.

Celgene plunged 16.4 per cent after it cut its long-term sales and profit targets. Pfizer and Mylan both lost 1.2 per cent and Biogen shed 2.2 per cent.


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