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Stocks close lower as concerns about tax reform linger

CNBC logo CNBC 11/17/2017 Fred Imbert

Stocks ended lower Friday as worries about tax reform lingered on Wall Street. 

The Dow lost 100 points, with Walmart leading decliners on the 30-stock index. The retailer's stock rallied to an all-time high Thursday on strong quarterly results.

The S&P 500 shed 0.26 percent, with utilities and information technology lagging. 

The Nasdaq slipped 0.15 percent as shares of Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet declined. A gain in Tesla helped the index stem losses.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that he expects a Republican tax reform bill to be sent to President Trump by Christmas. Mnuchin made his comments a day after the House passed a bill aimed at overhauling the tax code. The Senate now has to vote on their tax plan. 

"We're very excited about the timeline," Mnuchin said. "We're going to have the Senate, as soon as they get back from Thanksgiving, vote on the bill."

Expectations for tax reform have helped lift U.S. stocks to record levels this year. The S&P 500 is up more than 15 percent in 2017.

But the market had seen some turbulence recently, slipping from record highs, as concern remained about whether tax reform could be achieved by year's end.

There are also concerns about some key differences between the House and Senate tax plans.

"Senate Republicans want to vote on their tax plans after Thanksgiving, but it differs from the House Republicans' bill. For example, it would not implement a cut in the corporate tax rate until 2019," said Nicholas Colas, a co-founder of DataTrek Research. "Whether or not final legislation will pass by the end of the year is still uncertain as both chambers will have to agree on a joint plan even if the Senate GOP approves its bill," Colas said.

Elsewhere, a slew of corporate news kept traders on their toes. CNBC reported Thursday, citing sources, that Comcast is interested in acquiring the same set of assets Walt Disney is interested in acquiring from Fox. A Comcast-Fox deal would have the same regulatory issues that Disney would have in acquiring the Fox assets, the sources said.

Dow Jones also reported that Verizon Communications is interested in acquiring those same assets. Fox shares popped more than 7 percent.

Tesla shares jumped more than 3 percent after the company unveiled two new vehicles, including a semi truck. Trucking company J.B. Hunt said it has reserved "multiple" semis.

Robert Cihra, an analyst with Guggenheim Securities, said in a note that "we continue to see it as more than just some science project but rather another new performance/cost vector for EVs vs. traditional transport (this time vs. long-haul diesel trucking) that can further leverage the technology and manufacturing infrastructure Tesla has been building."


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