June 22, 2017 / 1:03 PM / 2 months ago

Healthcare stocks jump after Republicans unveil plan; banks, staples slip

A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., December 28, 2016.Andrew Kelly/File Photo

(Reuters) - The S&P healthcare index .SPXHC rose 1 percent on Thursday, hitting its fifth consecutive record close following the release of Senate Republicans' bill to replace Obamacare, while financial and consumer staple shares ended lower.

The legislation aims at curbing Medicaid funding and reshaping subsidies to low-income people for private insurance. The index has risen 3.9 percent in five days.

The Nasdaq biotechnology index rose 1.3 percent, for a 9.4 percent jump so far this week. While it was not clear whether the bill would get enough support to become law, drug stocks were among the S&P 500's biggest gainers, with Gilead (GILD.O) rising 4.4 percent on Thursday.

"The initial proposal I think is more generous and more positive to the industry than expected," said Jeff Jonas, portfolio manager with Gabelli Funds.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI gave up early gains to end down 12.74 points, or 0.06 percent, at 21,397.29. The S&P 500 .SPX lost 1.11 points, or 0.05 percent, to 2,434.5 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 2.73 points, or 0.04 percent, to 6,236.69.

The S&P energy index .SPNY ended down 0.1 percent after recording 3.5 percent of losses in the previous three sessions on falling oil prices.

"Oil's had a tough run in the last handful of weeks. I wouldn't say oil being up today gives anybody a high degree of confidence we've seen a floor in oil yet," Michael Scanlon, managing director, portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management in Boston.

Thursday's gains were muted as and investors looked forward to the second-quarter earnings season.

"U.S. equities are trading at somewhat rich valuations," said Jason Pride, director of investment strategy at Glenmede in Philadelphia. "With earnings coming up that should provide upside pressure to stocks, but the valuations provide a counterbalance to that."

The S&P bank index .SPXBK was down 0.6 percent ahead of the release of the sector's annual stress test results, released after the market close. Bank shares remained unchanged after the news.

"Going into this quarter you've had negative guidance out of the banks that the trading environment hasn't been so good. I think the market's going to be a bit more choppy over the next few weeks," said Manulife's Scanlon.

The consumer staples sector .SPLRCS ended down 0.7 percent and was the second-biggest drag on the S&P behind financials.

Economic data on Thursday showed jobless claims for last week increased by 3,000 to 241,000, but remain at levels consistent with a tight labour market.

Oracle's (ORCL.N) 8.6 percent rise to $50.30 provided the S&P with its biggest boost after the company forecast an upbeat current-quarter profit.

Accenture (ACN.N) fell 3.9 percent after the consulting and outsourcing services provider trimmed its annual revenue forecast.

Tesla (TSLA.O) was up 1.6 percent at $382.61 after the company said it was in exploratory talks with the Shanghai municipal government to establish an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in China.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.41-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.41-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

More than 6.65 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with a 6.95 billion average for the last 20 sessions.

Additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York, Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler

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