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MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Trade Near Records After GDP Data, Financials Lead On The Day12-21-17 9:49 AM EST

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch , Ryan Vlastelica

Biogen falls after update on Alzheimer's drug

U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, with major indexes trading near record levels, although market action could be quiet as traders look for fresh catalysts following the recent approval of the tax bill in Washington.

The latest economic data, which pointed to slight slowing from strong previous readings, further clouded the view.

What are indexes doing?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 67 points, or 0.3%, to 24,798. The S&P 500 rose 6.5 points, or 0.3%, to 2,685. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 13 points to 6,974, a rise of 0.2%.

The day's gains were broad, with nine of the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors higher on the day. Financial shares were the biggest gainers, up 0.6%. Among specific stocks, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.(GS) rose 0.9% while Bank of America Corp. (BAC) was up 0.6%.

What's driving the market?

Congress on Wednesday provided final approval of the tax bill, leaving only President Donald Trump to sign the bill into law.

Read:Tax cuts may deliver caffeine rush to economy, but jolt of adrenaline might not last long (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tax-cuts-may-deliver-caffeine-rush-to-economy-but-jolt-of-adrenaline-might-not-last-long-2017-12-20)

Among the bill's many features, it includes a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, which is expected to give U.S. companies a boost and speed up economic growth.

Read: 10 things you need to know about the new tax law (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-new-tax-law-2017-12-20)

What are strategists saying?

"The tax bill will help the bottom line of a lot of companies, but when we talk to companies, what we hear is that it is top-line growth they want to see," said Francis Gannon, co-chief investment officer at Royce Funds.

A company's bottom line, or profitability, can be boosted by lower tax rates or cost-cutting. However, revenue--the top line--requires higher demand to grow. Some analysts have questioned (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-the-disney-deal-suggests-the-tax-bill-may-mean-little-for-the-economy-2017-12-14) whether the tax bill will do much to boost demand or hiring.

"We don't see a recession or any kind of crisis on the horizon, but we're moving into a more normalized rate environment, and our thought process is that things are getting increasingly risky; this is a moment to be selective."

What's the latest economic data?

The U.S. economy's pace of growth in the third quarter (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/third-quarter-gdp-revised-down-slightly-to-32-rate-2017-12-21) was lowered slightly to a 3.2% annual rate from 3.3% under the government's final revision to gross domestic product. Economists were expecting GDP to be unrevised. The economy expanded at a 3.1% rate in the second quarter.

Separately, initial jobless claims rose a higher-than-expected 20,000 in the latest week, though they remain at historically low levels (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/jobless-claims-jump-by-most-since-early-september-2017-12-21).

On the upside, the Philadelphia Fed's Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey jumped to a reading of 26.2 in December (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/philly-fed-index-shows-accelerating-factory-momentum-in-december-2017-12-21) from 22.7. The mean estimate of analysts was for a reading of 21.8.

A report on leading indicators for November is slated for release at 10 a.m. Eastern.

See:MarketWatch's economic calendar (http://www.marketwatch.com/economy-politics/calendars/economic)

Which stocks are in focus?

Biogen Inc.(BIIB) fell 2.3% after the company put out a negative update (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/biogen-shares-drop-4-on-negative-update-for-alzheimers-disease-drug-2017-12-21-8912414) for its Alzheimer's disease drug.

Paychex Inc.(PAYX) reported second-quarter revenue that topped forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/paychexs-stock-falls-after-downbeat-profit-outlook-offsets-revenue-beat-2017-12-21), although it also gave a profit outlook that was below expectations. Shares fell 2.1%.

Read:Nike earnings: North America business may be starting to gain speed (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nike-earnings-north-america-business-starting-to-just-do-it-again-2017-12-19)

Apple Inc.(AAPL) shares rose 0.3%. The tech giant on Wednesday admitted it slows down older iPhones (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/apple-admits-slowing-down-older-iphones-to-prevent-unexpected-shutdowns-2017-12-20) to prevent unexpected shutdowns.

Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (AEZS.T) soared 50% after the biotech firm late Wednesday said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved the company's Macrilen product for diagnosis of adult growth hormone deficiency.

Long Island Iced Tea Corp.(LTEA) said it would change its name (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/long-island-iced-teas-stock-rockets-nearly-500-after-changing-name-to-long-blockchain-2017-12-21) to Long Blockchain Corp. Shares soared 267%. The company is just the latest example (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-one-thing-the-bitcoin-frenzy-has-in-common-with-the-dot-com-bubble-2017-11-02) of a stock seeing massive gains after adding a cryptocurrency-related term to its name.

What are other markets doing?

Asian stocks closed mixed, while European stocks (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-drop-as-us-tax-optimism-fades-2017-12-21) mostly traded lower (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-drop-as-us-tax-optimism-fades-2017-12-21).

Oil and gold were also in the red, while the dollar index was flat around 93.307.

Bitcoin futures on the CME were down 2.4% at $16,625.

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 21, 2017 09:49 ET (14:49 GMT)

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