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Stocks slide as drugmakers fall on price worries

Stocks slide as drugmakers fall on price worries
Posted at 9:58 AM, Mar 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-07 12:58:12-05

U.S. stock indexes are mostly lower Tuesday. Drugmakers are falling after President Donald Trump said he wants to bring drug prices down, while health insurers are edging higher after Republicans in Congress introduced a bill intended to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Technology companies are making small gains.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 5 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,369 as of 11:55 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 25 points, or 0.1 percent, to 20,928. The Nasdaq composite sagged 6 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,843. Two stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

Stocks have declined a bit after setting all-time highs as recently as last Wednesday. On Thursday the current bull market will turn eight years old. It has lasted longer than any other bull market since World War II except for the decade-long run that ended in early 2000.

HEALTH CARE HAMMERED: Health care companies fell after House Republicans introduced legislation to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The legislation would provide tax credits for people buying their own insurance and would scale back the government's role in helping people afford coverage. It would likely leave more Americans uninsured and would also overhaul Medicaid. It's not clear if the bill will gain enough support to pass the Senate, as several Republicans have already criticized the proposal.

Health insurance companies traded higher, however. Les Funtleyder, health care portfolio manager for E Squared Asset Management, said the bill would help reduce the losses health insurers are taking on plans offered to people who don't get their insurance through an employer or the government.

"They're talking about stabilizing the individual market," he said.

Humana added $4.61, or 2.2 percent, to $217.5 and Cigna picked up 42 cents to $153.38.

DRUGMAKERS DOWN: Drug companies fell after President Donald Trump said in a tweet that he intends to bring down drug prices. Trump has talked about reducing drug prices before, but hasn't said how he planned to achieve it. At times investors have wondered if it is a priority.

"There's no government mechanism at the moment to control costs directly," said Funtleyder. "Because he keeps making conflicting statements it's hard to really pin him down."

Companies that make costly drugs took some of the largest losses. Mallinckrodt, which has faced criticism over the price tag of its HP Acthar gel, gave up $2.17, or 4.2 percent, to $49.09. Biotechnology company Alexion Pharmaceuticals shed $3.45, or 2.6 percent, to $129.89. Alexion makes Soliris, a high-priced drug that treats two rare genetic disorders.

Meanwhile generic drug companies also struggled. Those included Perrigo and Mylan, which are among several generic drugmakers facing scrutiny over possible price-fixing, retreated $2.03, or 2.8 percent, to $69.56 and Mylan fell 66 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $43.37.

Prescription drug distributors also fell. Express Scripts lost $1.61, or 2.3 percent, to $68.44.

AND HOW IS THE WEATHER: Oilfield services company Weatherford International soared after it named a new CEO. The company said its current CEO, Krishna Shivram, is leaving effective immediately as Weatherford hires Halliburton Chief Financial Officer Mark McCollum as its new president and CEO. McCollum will join the company in late April. Weatherford stock surged 80 cents, or 13.6 percent, to $6.69.

LOGGING ON: Technology companies did better than the rest of the market. Chipmaker Texas Instruments gained $1.49, or 1.9 percent, to $79.80 while cloud services company Akamai Technologies rose 72 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $63.78. Data storage company Nimble Storage soared after it agreed to be bought by Hewlett Packard Enterprise for about $1 billion. The stock rose $3.90, or 45. 3 percent, to $12.50, matching the price of the deal.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 9 cents to $53.29 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, advanced 1 cents to $56.02 a barrel in London. Energy companies continued to lag the market, however, which continued a pattern that's persisted since late last year. Hess lost $1.15, or 2.3 percent, to $49.88 and Exxon Mobil skidded 56 cents to $82.27 while natural gas companies like Southwestern Energy fell with the price of that fuel.

FOUL BALL: Dick's Sporting Goods slumped after the retailer gave a weak forecast for the year and its profit projections for the first quarter fell short of Wall Street forecasts. The stock tumbled $4.55, or 8.7 percent, to $48.06.

BONDS: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.51 percent from 2.50 percent.

CURRENCIES: The dollar bounced back to 114.04 yen from 113.92 yen. The euro fell to $1.0576 from $1.0588.

OVERSEAS: The CAC 40 in France traded 0.5 percent lower. Germany's DAX was little changed and the FTSE 100 index in Britain slid 0.2 percent. The Nikkei 225 stock index in Tokyo edged 0.2 percent lower. The Hang Seng gained 0.4 percent and South Kore's Kospi gained 0.6 percent.