US stocks slip with healthcare in focus

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US stocks capped the day on Thursday with a slight loss, shedding an earlier gain, as Wall Street remained fixated on Capitol Hill.

Republican efforts to pass legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare hit a snag this afternoon, with the White House and lawmakers haggling over the details of the bill.

A House of Representatives vote on the measure, initially expected on Thursday, was postponed in the late afternoon as party leaders failed to assemble enough ‘ayes’ to feel confident in the results of the vote, which would tee it up for Senate consideration if successful.

The bill is seen by some market participants as a litmus test for how much political capital the Trump administration has and whether Donald Trump’s business dealing prowess will apply in Washington. Mr Trump has promised that after the passage of the healthcare reform, he will move on business-friendly measures like a reduction in the corporate tax rate.

The S&P 500 closed the session down 0.1 per cent to 2,346, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat at 20,656.6 and the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.1 per cent to 5,817.4.

The healthcare sector was the worst performer on the benchmark index, dipping 0.4 per cent. Shares of large healthcare insurers, which could benefit from a loosening on certain underwriting requirements, faced heavier losses. UnitedHealth fell 1 per cent, while Humana shed 1.6 per cent.

In fixed income, the 10-year Treasury yield was recently up by 1.8 basis points to 2.414 per cent, falling from a session high of 2.436 per cent.

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