November 7, 2017 / 1:53 PM / a year ago

US STOCKS-Wall St just off record highs as earning season winds down

* Yellen to speak at award presentation at 2:30 p.m. ET

* Valeant surges on better-than-expected profit

* Priceline falls as forecast disappoints

* Futures: Dow up 12 pts, S&P down 0.5 pts, Nasdaq down 1.5 pts (Adds details, comment, updates prices)

By Tanya Agrawal

Nov 7 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open close to record levels on Tuesday as earnings season winds down and investor expectations shift to a much-awaited cut in corporate taxes.

Negotiations on President Donald Trump’s tax bill have begun after House Republicans last week unveiled a first draft that proposes a range of cuts aimed at helping businesses, including slashing the corporate rate to 20 percent from 35 percent.

U.S. stocks climbed to record highs on Monday, helped by optimism about merger activity and as investors bet that the tax bill would bolster earnings.

The S&P has risen about 15 percent in 2017 on the back on strong earnings, an improving economy and Trump’s promise to cut taxes.

With more than 400 of S&P 500 companies having reported, earnings for the third quarter are expected to have climbed 8 percent, compared with expectations of a 5.9 percent rise at the start of October, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“While the market remains in place for further gains, the unwinding of the earnings season is likely to slow the pace of gains as the battle of tax reform lurks in the background,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial.

Dow e-minis were up 12 points, or 0.05 percent, with 23,917 contracts changing hands at 8:26 a.m. ET (1226 GMT).

S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.5 points, or 0.02 percent, with 147,736 contracts traded.

Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 1.5 points, or 0.02 percent, on volume of 28,733 contracts.

Investors are also awaiting a speech from outgoing Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Randal Quarles.

Yellen will give acceptance remarks at a presentation of the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government in Washington at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Her speech will come less than a week after President Donald Trump chose Fed governor Jerome Powell to replace Yellen at the end of her term in 2018.

Quarles will take part in a discussion on financial regulation. This will be Quarles’ first extensive public comments since taking up the job and Wall Street will be keen to hear on the deregulation of banks from Trump’s nominee.

Shares of Priceline Group were down 9.2 percent after the online travel services company gave a softer-than-expected guidance for the fourth quarter. was up 2.1 percent after the cloud-based software maker said it entered into a partnership with Alphabet’s Google to offer a cloud platform. Alphabet was up 0.4 percent.

Valeant Pharma surged 13 percent after its profit beat Wall Street estimates due to strength in its eye-care Bausch + Lomb business.

Weight Watchers jumped 13.6 percent after the weight management company raised its profit forecast. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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