Wall Street flat as investors look beyond healthcare bill

A street sign near the New York Stock Exchange in New York on Feb 16, 2017.
A street sign near the New York Stock Exchange in New York on Feb 16, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - US stocks struggled for direction on Tuesday (March 28) as investors chose to look beyond President Donald Trump's first major policy setback, while awaiting comments from several Federal Reserve officials, including Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

A failed healthcare bill sent the dollar and stocks down on Monday as investors questioned Mr Trump's ability to push his ambitious agenda of tax cuts and simpler regulations in Congress. However, markets steadied after Mr Trump said he would turn his attention to "big tax cuts".

The White House later said it would lead the role in reforming the U.S. tax code, eyeing an August deadline. "Yesterday's move was actually quite a small unwind and was quickly opposed, and it tells me that investor sentiment hasn't been unduly damaged by the failure of that (healthcare) legislation," said James Athey, Investment Manager at Aberdeen Asset Management. "We would see this volatility to be normal and healthy and not something to be overly concerned about at this stage."

Investors are awaiting Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's speech at a conference in Washington, where she could provide some insight into the timing of the central bank's next interest rate hike.

Other Fed officials scheduled to speak at separate events include Fed Board Governor Jerome Powell, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan and his Kansas City counterpart, Esther George.

At 9.39am ET (9.39pm Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 2.55 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 20,553.53, the S&P 500 was up 1.24 points, or 0.05 per cent, at 2,342.83 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 6.20 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 5,846.57.

Four of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were slightly lower, while three gained and the rest were little changed.