Wall St. turns negative as bank stocks weigh

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United States stock markets closed lower on Thursday after Republicans postponed a vote on President Donald Trump's replacement health care plan, which has been seen as a barometer of support for the president's broader agenda.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 1.1 percent at 20,668 points, while the S&P 500 lost 1.2 percent to 2,344. The Nasdaq composite reached a fresh all-time high, rising 0.4 percent.

The financial index.SPSY led the laggards on the S&P 500 with a 0.72 percent fall. "That didn't happen", said Mark Kepner, managing director at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey.

U.S. stocks closed mixed on Wednesday, a day after their steepest drop so far this year, as investors focused on President Donald Trump's struggle to push through a healthcare bill.

"Combine that with [The Wall Street Journal], a notably right-leaning publication, claiming that if Trump doesn't "show more respect for the truth" (https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-presidents-credibility-1490138920) then "most Americans may conclude he's a fake president" and the optimism that caused investors to flock to the major indices has been seriously undermined by, well, Trump himself", Campbell said in a note.

Banks, which have helped to propel share markets to record highs recently, were among the worst casualties.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), a preferred gauge of stock market stress, climbed nearly 10% to 12.47 on Mar 21, its highest close since Mar 1.

Lennar (LEN.N) fell 2.7 percent to $51.21, after the second-largest US homebuilder reported a drop in quarterly gross margin.

Trump and Republican lawmakers appeared to be losing the support they need for controversial healthcare legislation scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

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The Russell 2000 index of smallcap stocks was down 2.03 percent, on pace for its worst day since September.

The S&P 500 has gained 10 percent since the election, spurred mainly by Trump's agenda of tax cuts and infrastructure spending, but high valuations remain a concern.

But she added that Wall Street is especially eager for the administration's tax reform proposals.

The financial sector has been the best performing of the 11 major S&P sectors since Trump's election, surging almost 20 percent on his proposals to cut bank regulations and reduce taxes.

But investors have grown concerned about elevated valuations. JPMorgan Chase shares dipped 2.9 percent.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 3.45-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 4.53-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

Apple (AAPL.O) rose to an all-time high of $142.40 after the company unveiled a new version of its iPad tablet.

Stocks in the S&P 500 posted 27 new 52-week highs and seven new lows.

About 8.3 billion shares changed hands in US exchanges, compared with the 7.1 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.