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US STOCKS-Wall St pares losses as techs offset pharma decline
March 7, 2017 / 4:42 PM / in 9 months

US STOCKS-Wall St pares losses as techs offset pharma decline

* Trump says to bring down drug pricing

* Healthcare sector set for worst day in five weeks

* Rate hike odds for March stand at 83 pct

* Dow down 0.02 pct, S&P down 0.11 pct, Nasdaq up 0.08 pct (Adds details, comments, updates prices)

By Yashaswini Swamynathan

March 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks pared losses late Tuesday morning as a decline in drug stocks, triggered by President Donald Trump’s tweet about lowering drug prices, was countered by gains in technology shares.

Pharmaceutical stocks came under fire after Trump said he was working on a new system to increase competition in the drugs industry and bring down prices.

Trump also backed a draft bill unveiled by Republicans on Monday to repeal and replace the Obamacare healthcare law but said the bill was open to negotiation.

The S&P 500 healthcare index dropped 0.54 percent, setting it up for its worst day in more than five weeks.

Johnson & Johnson was the top drag on the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, while Amgen weighed the most on the Nasdaq.

However, a 0.4 percent advance in the S&P technology sector , led by gains in Apple and Microsoft , helped offset the impact of the decline in drug stocks.

“What you have going on is a market that is sort of in a quiet period,” said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth.

“It’s a week away from the Federal Reserve (meeting). The president came out last week and make a very good speech, but that sentiment has quickly dissipated.”

Eight of the 11 major S&P indexes were lower as investors braced for an interest rate hike next week.

The Federal Reserve has been preparing the market for tighter monetary policy, with an unusual number of key officials including Fed Chair Janet Yellen hinting at a rate hike in the central bank’s March 14-15 meeting.

The chances for a rate hike this month are at 83 percent, up from roughly 30 percent at the start of last week, according to Thomson Reuters data.

At 11:03 a.m. ET (1603 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 3.18 points, or 0.02 percent, at 20,951.16, the S&P 500 was down 2.6 points, or 0.11 percent, at 2,372.71 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 4.93 points, or 0.08 percent, at 5,854.10.

Newly minted shares of Snapchat owner Snap Inc fell 8.5 percent to $21.70 after a group representing large institutional investors asked stock index providers to bar the company and others who sell non-voting shares from their stock benchmarks.

Nimble Storage soared 45 percent after Hewlett Packard Co said it would buy the data storage provider for $1.09 billion in cash. HPE’s stock was marginally lower.

Dish Network was up 4.4 percent at $63.98 after the satellite TV company was picked to join the S&P 500.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,798 to 964. On the Nasdaq, 1,417 issues fell and 1,208 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed 12 new 52-week highs and 10 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 39 new highs and 33 new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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