Close Update: Healthcare Sector Losses Drag Major Market Indexes Slightly Lower in Wednesday Trading

Stocks closed fractionally lower Wednesday as the market's major gauges were dragged down by steep losses in shares of healthcare companies.

The healthcare index in the S&P 500 plunged 2.9% amid investor anxiety over the future of US healthcare policy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell fractionally, weighed down by losses in Merck (MRK), IBM (IBM) and Pfizer (PFE). Meanwhile, the S&P 500 fell 0.2% and the Nasdaq Composite Index slipped less than 0.1%.

Healthcare stocks have been under pressure in part as investors worry about the possibility of Medicare for All, a centerpiece of Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. RBC Capital Markets said in a note to investors on UnitedHealth that such a proposal "is highly unlikely," but that "the rhetoric will likely continue from left-leaning progressive candidates in the Democratic Party, which could continue to drive near-term stock price volatility, perhaps until we have a clearer picture over the eventual Democratic presidential nominee."

Technology stocks were among the winning sectors in the S&P 500, rising 0.6% as a group. Qualcomm rallied again Wednesday, rising 12%, piling on to its gains from Tuesday when it and Apple (AAPL) agreed to settle all their litigation against each other.

Looking ahead to Thursday's earnings, Schlumberger (SLB), Travelers (TRV) and Blackstone Group (BX) are among the companies scheduled to report.


Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 3.12 points (-0.01%) to 26,449.54

S&P 500 was down 6.61 points (-0.23%) to 2,900.45

Nasdaq Composite Index was down 4.15 points (-0.05%) to 7,996.08


FTSE 100 was up 1.40 points (+0.02%) to 7,471.32

Hang Seng Index was down 5.19 points (-0.02%) to 30,124.68

Shanghai China Composite Index was up 9.52 points (+0.29%) to 3,263.12


(+) QCOM (+12.25%) Continued rally from Tuesday after settling litigation with Apple

(+) SFS (+20.41%) Agrees to $6.50/share takeover offer

(+) MBRX (+6.61%) Reports 'significant' discovery in lung cancer models


(-) BK (-9.52%) Misses Q1 expectations

(-) APHA (-10.01%) Prices $300 million notes offering

(-) S (-6.16%) WSJ reports merger with T-Mobile unlikely approved in current form

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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