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

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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.

US MARKETS

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

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

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

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) 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

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) 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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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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