US stocks end mixed as health vote is cancelled

Donald Trump hosts a Greek Independence Day celebration at the White House, March 24, 2017.
Donald Trump hosts a Greek Independence Day celebration at the White House, March 24, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - The Dow finished lower and the Nasdaq higher on Friday (March 24) after a topsy-turvy session that culminated with a surprise decision to cancel a vote on President Donald Trump's health care replacement Bill.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3 per cent to close the day at 20,596.72.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.1 per cent to end at 2,343.98, but the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.2 per cent to 5,828.74.


The Republican proposal to repeal former president Barack Obama's signature health-care law was heading towards almost certain defeat due to lack of Republican votes. Many observers said failure would have been a major setback for the Trump agenda and raised questions about the majority party's capacity to govern.

But congressional leaders cancelled the vote at Trump's request just before it was to take place on Friday afternoon, despite pressure from Trump in person on Thursday and in tweets on Friday morning to pass the Bill.

Stocks hit session lows shortly before the decision to pull the plug on the Bill, but the market regained some ground after the news became public that the vote would not happen.

The late rebound, which was not enough to lift the Dow and the S&P 500 into positive territory, appeared to stem from the idea that canceling the vote was a better outcome than an actual defeat.

"We are still in the process of watching what is coming out of Washington, but it does not mean that we have sellable event," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

Micron Technology jumped 7.4 per cent after reporting a 58 per cent jump in revenues to US$4.7 billion (S$6.5 billion). Other semiconductor shares also were strong including Western Digital, which gained 2.6 per cent.

TransCanada lost 0.1 per cent after the Trump administration gave final approval to build the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline. However, the company still needs to win support from local authorities and residents in three states to grant the necessary permits and approvals to construct the pipeline.