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Wall Street Lacks Punch in Kickoff to Final Week of Strong Second Quarter

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Tom Cassidy, chief investment officer at Univest Wealth Management Division, was featured on The Street

June 26, 2017
By Keris Lahiff, The Street

Wall Street kicked off the last week of the second quarter with little direction. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average held slight gains on Monday, June 26, while the Nasdaq settled in the red.

The S&P 500 was up 0.03%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.07%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.29%.

Monday's jumpy trading notwithstanding, markets have made and held onto solid gains for the quarter. Strong fundamentals and a positive earnings season have given markets a boost over the past three months even as volatility held at multi-year lows.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is on track to end more than 3% higher for the quarter, adding to the 4.5% growth seen in the first quarter. Likewise, the S&P 500 is on track to end with gains of roughly 3%, slowing from the 5.5% increase seen in the first three months of the year.

"It feels right now that we might be a little directionless," said Univest Wealth Management chief investment officer Tom Cassidy of the day's moves in a phone call. "The markets have done a really nice job here in the first half of the year -- very quietly with low volatility -- for returns close to 10%. That's extremely good given where valuations are."

Crude oil prices came back from losses earlier in the session, extending gains into a third straight day. Worries over global oversupply and stubbornly high production ravaged commodities markets in the past week. The selloff began on Tuesday, June 20, with sharp declines sending prices into a bear market, having fallen more than 20% from a late February high. Crude reached its lowest level in 10 months on Wednesday.

West Texas Intermediate crude was up 0.9% to $43.38 a barrel on Monday.

Markets are in a good mood for no real reason, said James "Rev Shark" Deporre over on our premium site for investors, Real Money. Get his insights with a free trial subscription.

The FAANG stocks -- Facebook Inc. (FB), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), Apple Inc. (AAPL), Netflix Inc. (NFLX) and Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) (formerly Google) -- traded lower. The Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK) fell 0.4%. The sector suffered a steep mid-June selloff tied to worries over high valuations. The FAANG stocks had contributed a large portion of the S&P 500's gains in the year to date.

The U.S. Supreme Court is making a number of rulings on its final day of the current term, including a number of religious liberty cases. The highest court already ruled on Monday in favor of a Missouri church that had been denied a state grant. The court ruled 7-2 that Missouri had been wrong to deny the church funds to repave school playgrounds.

The Supreme Court also agreed to hear appeals to the blocking of President Donald Trump's "travel ban." Several lower courts had called the ban unconstitutional, citing Trump's previous campaign promise to block all Muslim immigration. Trump's current legislation blocks travel from six Muslim-majority countries.

Healthcare names were mostly lower ahead of an expected vote on the GOP's Obamacare replacement later in the week. Senate House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a vote on the Senate's bill in the coming week. McConnell hopes to have votes cast before Congress goes on its July 4 recess.

The Senate bill, which was made public on Thursday, June 22, suggests deep cuts to Medicaid and allows states the option to drop benefits coverage, including maternity care and mental health care. Details of the plan have been worked out in secret with no public hearings nor amendments from across the aisle.

GOP lawmakers issued a new iteration of the Better Care Reconciliation Act on Monday. The changes address ways to encourage people to buy insurance -- a key measure for keeping insurance markets stable and preventing premiums from skyrocketing. The BCRA now includes six-month "lock out" period where people who don't have insurance have to wait a certain amount of time before their policy takes effect. The House bill would have allowed insurers to charge people who allow coverage to lapse up to 30% more for a year.

The Congressional Budget Office will release its rating on the Senate Republicans' healthcare bill in the coming week. The CBO rating could be released as early as Monday. The Senate GOP's plan is seen as similar to the House GOP's American Health Care Act, though many have criticized the bill for being even harsher. A number of Republicans have openly criticized the bill, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

The CBO found that the House's bill would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured in exchange for a $119 billion reduction in the deficit over 10 years and nearly $800 billion in tax cuts that would overwhelmingly benefit the rich. The Tax Policy Center estimated a $37,000 average annual tax cut would go to the highest 1% of earners, and the top 0.1% would get a $200,000 tax cut.

The healthcare sector had one of its best weekly performances last week since early November 2016. The sector rallied on Wednesday, June 21, and Thursday, June 22, on hopes that the Senate GOP healthcare bill and relaxed regulations from the Trump White House would benefit drugmakers.

Durable goods orders in May fell 1.1%, wider than economists' estimates that called for a drop of 0.6%. It was the biggest drop in six months. Core durable goods orders rose 0.1% in May, one-fifth the expected increase.

Pandora Media Inc. (P) co-founder and CEO Tim Westergren plans to step down as the streaming music company's leader, Recode reported, citing people familiar with the company's plans. Pandora hasn't selected a replacement for Westergren, sources said. He will likely stay on at the company he founded 17 years ago until a new CEO is in place, Recode reported. Westergren has been running Pandora since 2016.

Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (HIG) rose 1% after reducing its pension liabilities through a deal with Prudential Financial Inc. (PRU). Hartford will purchase a group annuity contract and transfer $1.6 billion, 29% of its $5.6 billion in U.S.-qualified pension plan liabilities. Hartford expects a $485 million charge in the second quarter tied to the transaction and a reduction to stockholders' equity of approximately $140 million.

Arconic Inc. (ARNC) slumped 6% after being named as the producer of aluminum steel used in the Grenfell Tower. According to The New York Times, contractors reportedly combined Arconic-produced cladding with flammable interior insulation material. A fire at Glenfell Tower in the U.K. on June 14 killed at least 79 people.

Avis Budget Group (CAR) increased 14% after the vehicle rental service company and Alphabet self-driving car branch Waymo reached a deal for the rental car company to manage its fleet of vehicles. Avis will store the fleet in Phoenix where Alphabet is currently testing its vehicles.

Rite Aid Corp. (RAD) spiked 30% after mergers-and-acquisitions site CFTN reported that approval of its deal with Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (WBA) appeared likely. A vote on the deal from antitrust regulators is expected this week.

Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) moved 2% higher after Raymond James upgraded its rating to outperform from market perform. The firm said Costco has been oversold in the selloff since Amazon.com announced its plans to buy Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM). Grocery and supermarket stocks tumbled after the $13.7 billion deal was made public.

View the original article at: https://www.thestreet.com/story/14197393/1/wall-street-sees-mixed-start-in-kickoff-to-final-week-of-second-quarter.html

Securities and insurance products are offered through Univest Investments, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC and a licensed insurance agency. Investment advisory services are offered through Girard Partners, a Univest Wealth Management Firm. These affiliated companies are licensed subsidiaries of Univest Corporation of Pennsylvania. Products and services offered are not FDIC insured, are not a deposit of or bank guaranteed, and are subject to risks, including possible loss of any principal amount invested.

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