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US, European Stocks Sink Again         12/17 12:34

   U.S. stocks are falling in choppy trading, and the S&P 500 is trading at its 
lowest in more than a year. Health insurers and hospitals are falling after a 
judge in Texas ruled that the 2010 Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. 
Retailers and technology stocks are sinking, and high-dividend companies 
including utilities and real estate companies are falling sharply.

   NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are falling in choppy trading, and the S&P 500 
is trading at its lowest in more than a year. Health insurers and hospitals are 
falling after a judge in Texas ruled that the 2010 Affordable Care Act is 
unconstitutional. Retailers and technology stocks are sinking, and 
high-dividend companies including utilities and real estate companies are 
falling sharply.

   KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 fell as much as 1.2 percent in morning trading 
before making a recovery and briefly turning higher. At 12:45 p.m. it was down 
21 points, or 0.8 percent, at 2,578. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 206 
points, or 0.9 percent, to 23,894. The Nasdaq composite fell 44 points, or 0.6 
percent, to 6,866. The Russell 2000 index dipped 10 points, or 0.8 percent, to 
1,399.

   The S&P 500 is on track for its lowest close since November 2017. The U.S. 
benchmark index has fallen 12 percent since it set a record high in late 
September. The Russell 2000 has done significantly worse: it's fallen almost 20 
percent since it finished at its last record high at the end of August. Wall 
Street calls a 20 percent decline a "bear market," and it's considered a major 
downturn.

   The S&P Small Cap 600 index went into a bear market Friday as investors 
continue to lose confidence in the U.S. economy's growth prospects. Smaller 
companies are considered more vulnerable in a downturn than larger companies 
because they are more dependent on economic growth and tend to have higher 
levels of debt.

   HEALTH SCARE: Hospital operator HCA dropped 2.3 percent to $123.86 while 
health insurer UnitedHealth lost 1.4 percent to $261.35. Centene, a health 
insurer that focuses on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act's individual 
health insurance exchanges, fell 5.2 percent to $120.86 and Molina skidded 11.3 
percent to $116.85.

   Many experts expect the ruling will be overturned, but with the markets 
suffering steep declines in recent months, investors didn't appear willing to 
wait and see.

   BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.86 
percent from 2.89 percent.

   The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates again Wednesday, the 
fourth increase of this year. It's been raising rates since over the last three 
years, and investors will want to know if the Fed is scaling back its plans for 
further increases based on the turmoil in the stock market over the last few 
months and mounting evidence that world economic growth is slowing down.

   Banks managed some gains Monday despite the downward drift in bond yields, 
which makes lending less profitable for banks by forcing interest rates on 
loans such as mortgages lower.

   Bank of America rose 1.3 percent to $24.81 and Bank of New York Mellon added 
1.6 percent to $49.44. Banks have been hammered recently because of investors' 
concerns about slowing growth and slower increases in interest rates.

   The S&P 500's index of financial stocks is down 9.5 percent in the last 
month, worse than any other part of the market. For the year it's down 13.5 
percent, much worse than the 3.5 percent decline in the S&P 500.

   UK QUESTIONS: British Prime Minister Theresa May said Parliament will vote 
Jan. 14 on her deal setting terms for Britain's departure from the European 
Union. She canceled a vote on the deal last week because it was clear 
legislators were going to reject it. May insists she can save the deal, but 
pressure is mounting for either a vote by lawmakers or a new referendum on the 
issue.

   Britain is scheduled to leave the EU in late March, and if it does so 
without a deal in place governing their trade and economic relationships, it 
could bring huge disruptions to the British and European economies and 
financial markets.

   OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX lost 0.9 percent. That means the DAX, which 
represents Europe's largest single economy, is also in bear market territory. 
France's CAC 40 and Britain's FTSE 100 both fell 1.1 percent.

   Japan's Nikkei 225 index added 0.6 percent and the Kospi in South Korea 
gained 0.1 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was less than 0.1 percent lower. Both 
the Kospi and Hang Seng are in bear markets as well.

   TRADE TENSIONS: China and the United States clashed again over their 
respective trade policies Monday, as China criticized what it calls a 
"unilateralist and protectionist" approach to trade. The U.S. ambassador to the 
World Trade Organization said those critiques were unwarranted. The two nations 
have been embroiled in a dispute over technology policy and other issues for 
most of this year. With no end to the conflict in sight, investors are growing 
more concerned that the tensions will drag down the already-slowing global 
economy.

   ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 1.6 percent to $50.38 a barrel in New 
York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dipped 0.7 percent to 
$59.84 a barrel in London.

   CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 112.81 yen from 113.29 yen. The euro rose 
to $1.1354 from $1.1303. The British pound rose to $1.2623 from $1.2579.


(BE)

 
 
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