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US: Stocks pressured as oil rally fizzles

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[NEW YORK] The Dow and S&P 500 dipped on Thursday as a rally in oil prices fizzled and concerns about inaction on key legislative priorities in Washington pressured sentiment.

Oil prices retreated modestly after Wednesday's surge, sending shares of ExxonMobil, Chevron and other oil producers lower.

Analysts also said the introduction of President Donald Trump's controversial budget proposal, coupled with ongoing acrimony on health policy, exacerbated worries that tax cuts and other growth-stimulating measures will be delayed.

"For investors, today's activities in the nation's capital have done little to encourage the notion that tax reform will be a quick and easy process," said. "That concern has likely been baked into today's modest slip in the stock market." The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day 0.1 per cent lower at 20,933.80.

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The broad-based S&P 500 fell 0.2 per cent to end at 2,381.34, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained a hair at 5,900.76.

Software giant Oracle surged 6.2 per cent after reporting that third quarter net income rose 5.5 per cent to US$2.2 billion in better-than-expected results that underscored its strong growth in cloud software.

Tesla Motors climbed 2.5 per cent as it announced plans to raise US$1 billion in new offerings of stock and bonds to strengthen the company's balance sheet and to "further reduce any risks" associated with the building of the Model 3 sedan, its lower-priced electric car.

Williams-Sonoma climbed 2.4 per cent as it boosted its quarterly dividend by five per cent after fourth-quarter earnings rose 2.5 per cent to US$144.6 million.

Biogen lost 4.7 per cent following a downgrade by Morgan Stanley.