US stocks start higher ahead of uncertain health care vote

Financial Markets
In this Jan. 12, 2017, photo, traders work on the Mizuho Americas trading floor in New York. Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street, on Friday, March 24, 2017, led by gains in technology companies and banks. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

NEW YORK/March 24, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — U.S. stocks are opening higher Friday morning as technology companies climb and most other sectors make small gains. For most of this week investors have been waiting for answers about the fate of the Republican-backed American Health Care Act, which is scheduled to come up for a vote later Friday after it was delayed a day earlier.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index picked up 7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,352 as of 10:03 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average added 37 points, or 0.2 percent, to 20,693. The Nasdaq composite jumped 33 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,850. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks advanced 7 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,360.

The S&P 500 is on track for its biggest weekly loss this year.

HEALTH BILL HOLDUP: Stocks were higher for most of the day on Thursday, but the gains mostly evaporated after House Republicans postponed the health care vote because of a lack of support. Investors aren’t overwhelmingly concerned about the health care proposal itself, but they wonder if a protracted debate or a failed bill would delay aspects of President Donald Trump’s agenda that the market is excited about. Those include tax cuts, greater infrastructure spending, and cuts in regulations.

TECH LEADS: Technology companies made the biggest gains on the market, continuing a strong run over the last few months. Chipmaker Micron Technology surged $2.49, or 9.4 percent, to $28.96 after its second-quarter earnings were much better than analysts expected, and data storage company Western Digital jumped $3.88, or 5.1 percent, to $80.07. Elsewhere Apple picked up 58 cents to $141.50.

Real estate and consumer focused companies also traded higher.

MAKING A SPLASH: SeaWorld Entertainment jumped after a big investment from China. SeaWorld said real estate holding company Zhonghong Zhuoye Group bought a 21 percent stake from Blackstone Group. It said the Chinese firm paid $23 a share, and an executive will join SeaWorld’s board. The stock has struggled in recent years because of controversy about the conditions of SeaWorld’s captive killer whales, which hurt attendance. The stock gained $1.21, or 7 percent, to $18.52 Friday.

FULL STOP: Video game retailer GameStop disclosed weaker-than-expected revenue as consumers cut back on shopping while they waited for companies to start introducing new game systems. GameStop’s forecasts for this year fell far short of analyst forecasts. The company said it expects to earn between $3.10 to $3.40 per share in its current fiscal year, and FactSet says analysts expected $3.73 a share. The stock dropped $2.70, or 11.3 percent, to $21.26.

NOT A PHOTO FINISH: Shoe store The Finish Line slumped after the company said it had to cut prices in the fourth quarter because consumers didn’t like some of its products. Like many other retailers, it also faced generally tough business conditions. The company reported a loss thanks to impairment charges and it cut its annual profit outlook. The stock shed $3.24, or 20.2 percent, to $19.21.

BONDS: Bond prices held steady. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note remained at 2.42 percent.

ENERGY: U.S. crude oil futures rose 15 cents to $47.84 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 14 cents to $50.80 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.24 yen from 111.07 yen. The euro edged up to $1.0798 from $1.0786.

OVERSEAS: The French CAC 40 dropped 0.3 percent and Britain’s FTSE 100 index slipped 0.1 percent. In Germany, the DAX was little changed. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.9 percent following recent losses. The Kospi of South Korea dipped 0.2 percent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng reversed earlier losses to finish 0.1 percent higher.

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MARLEY JAY, AP Markets Writer

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