By Sue Chang and Joseph Adinolfi, MarketWatch
Nasdaq Composite flirts with positive territory
U.S. stocks traded mostly lower Friday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average poised to snap its winning streak, weighed by a tumble in shares of UnitedHealth Group. The broader market, however, is on track to finish the week higher.
Market participants have attributed the stall-out to investors taking a breather, after a string of healthy gains and Wall Street's reluctance to make bullish bets ahead of the Presidents Day holiday.
The Dow eased by 61.43 points, or 0.3%, to 20,559, with a 3.8% drop in UnitedHealth Group Inc. (>> UnitedHealth Group Inc) responsible for the bulk of the blue-chip benchmark's decline. The company, the country's largest health insurer, is being sued by the Justice Department for allegedly overcharging Medicare, according to reports (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/business/dealbook/unitedhealthcare-improperly-took-money-from-medicare-suit-says.html?_r=1). The insurer was cutting about 50 points from the Dow industrials in late-morning trade.
The S&P 500 index slipped 3 points, or 0.2%, to 2,343, with telecommunications and energy sectors leading the broad-market index lower.
The Nasdaq Composite Index bounced around between small gains and losses, and was most recently trading up 2 points to 5,817.
The euphoria surrounding President Donald Trump's proposed economic policies--fueled by optimism around the prospect of tax cuts and increased infrastructure spending--have helped to push U.S. stocks to all-time highs.
Still, remarks from Trump on Thursday that his administration is likely to introduce a new health plan to replace the Affordable Care Act in March, ahead of his proposed tax reform , dampened some of the enthusiasm.
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Mohannad Aama, managing director at Beam Capital Management, expects the market to take an extended breather, he said, because "we've fully priced in the potential for policy improvements as it relates to the stock market."
Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James, cautioned that stocks have depleted most of their energy and will need time to rebuild upside momentum but rejected the possibility of a major pullback.
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Others believe the market rally could have more room to run once investors have a clearer picture of Trump's plans for tax reform and the health-care overhaul.
"I still remain optimistic on the market going forward," said Gary Anetsberger, chief executive officer at Millennium Trust Co.
The stock and bond markets will be closed on Monday () for the Presidents Day holiday, meaning there may be little appetite to build new positions on Friday, Wild said.
For the week, all three main indexes are positioned to rise more than 1%.
In a lengthy and wide-ranging news conference on Thursday, Trump spoke of inheriting a "mess" from President Barack Obama and sparred with members of the media and the mainstream media more generally.
Wild noted that the market will be eager to hear what the president has to say in an address to Congress on Feb. 28.
Stock movers: Shares of Kraft Heinz Co. (>> Kraft Heinz Co) and Unilever PLC (>> Unilever plc)(>> Unilever) (>> Unilever plc) rocketed higher after Kraft said Unilver had rejected its initial merger offer. The company indicated that talks were still ongoing .
Shares of Deere & Co. (>> Deere & Company) reversed early gains to slip 0.6% after earnings and sales beat forecasts. The maker of construction equipment offered up an upbeat outlook .
J.M. Smucker Co. shares (>> J M Smucker Co) fell 3.6% after the jam maker issued a weak outlook.
Campbell Soup Co. shares (>> Campbell Soup Company) sank 6.5% after second-quarter profit and revenue missed forecasts .
General Mills Inc. shares (>> General Mills, Inc.) slid 3.5% after the company lowered its sales outlook .
Other markets: Asian stocks finished mostly lower and European stocks slipped.after U.S. stocks largely stepped back from their record run.
The U.S. Dollar Index rose while oil prices declined, and gold was essentially flat.
--Barbara Kollmeyer contributed to this report.