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Stocks fall the most since October, led by declines in banks

Trader Michael Capolino works on the floor of

Trader Michael Capolino works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

U.S. stocks took their biggest loss in five months Tuesday as a health care bill backed by President Donald Trump ran into trouble in Congress, which raised some questions about his agenda of faster economic growth spurred on by lower taxes and cuts in regulations.

Bank stocks plunged as bond yields continued to fall, which will mean lower interest rates on loans. Transportation companies including airlines, railroads and rental car companies dropped, and so did materials companies like steel and chemicals makers.

The dollar weakened. Small-company stocks, which stand to benefit the most from Trump’s policy proposals of lower taxes and looser regulations, fell more than the rest of the market.

“President Trump promised that this health care bill would be signed, sealed, delivered within the first couple of weeks of him taking office,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer for BMO Capital Markets. “All this is doing is pushing the rest of the agenda out.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index tumbled 29.45 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,344.02. That was its biggest drop since Oct. 11. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 237.85 points, or 1.1 percent, to 20,668.01.

The Nasdaq composite surrendered 107.70 points, or 1.8 percent, to 5,793.83. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks plunged 37.55 points, or 2.7 percent, to 1,346.55. Four-fifths of the stocks on the New York Stock Exchange fell.

Stocks have fallen for four days in a row, though the previous losses were small. Tuesday’s losses were a reversal of the patterns that have endured since Trump was elected in November, but overall stocks are still sharply higher since then.

On Thursday the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Republican-backed American Health Care Act, and despite support from the president on Tuesday, it’s not clear if the House or the Senate will approve the bill. The administration hopes to get a major tax reform package to Congress by August, and a big infrastructure spending proposal may follow next year.


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