Health shares boosted as US stocks end flat

A rally in healthcare stocks couldn't offset weakness in consumer and financial stocks on Thursday.

NEW YORK (AFP) – Health and pharma shares moved broadly higher on Thursday (June 22) after Senate Republicans unveiled a new health reform proposal as US stocks ended little changed.

Oil prices, which finished at multi-month lows on Wednesday, rallied a bit, boosting some petroleum-linked equities and broader market sentiment.

Several companies in the health sector rose, including insurer Aetna, up 0.6 per cent, hospital company Tenet Healthcare, up 7 per cent, and pharmacy benefit company Express Scripts, up 1.5 per cent.

The advances came as Republicans released a long-awaited health Bill, although the proposal’s prospects looked uncertain due to the apparent opposition of key lawmakers.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.1 per cent to 21,397.29.

The broad-based S&P 500 lost 0.1 per cent to finish at 2,434.50, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose less than 0.1 per cent to 6,236.69.

American Airlines rose 1.1 per cent on news that Qatar Airways is seeking to buy about a 10 per cent stake in the US carrier. The action comes as Qatar feels the pinch from a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia and other neighbouring countries.

Oracle shot up 8.6 per cent on better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings due to a strong performance in its cloud computing business.