Stocks eased on Friday, Nov. 17, trading lower after a record rally a day earlier sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average up by triple digits and pushed the Nasdaq to a new closing high.
The Dow was down 46 points, the S&P 500 fell 4 points, and the Nasdaq slipped by 7 points.
Wall Street cemented big gains on Thursday after the Republicans' tax bill made progress in the House. Enough GOP leaders in the House voted in support of a tax reform bill on Thursday afternoon, pushing the bill through to the Senate. The House GOP's $5.5 trillion tax package attracted 227 votes in support and 205 in dissent, including 13 Republicans. The GOP could only afford 22 nay votes from its own party.
The House GOP's plan cuts the corporate tax rate to 20%, down from 35%, limits the number of income brackets to four from seven, and proposes a top income tax rate of 35% for the highest earners making up to $1 million.
The affirmative vote in the House is the first step in pushing Republicans' tax reform plans into law. But it won't be a process without hurdles -- the Senate GOP's bill diverges from the House's in key aspects. Among the largest, the Senate bill has proposed repealing the Obamacare mandate. The Senate plans to take a vote on its bill early next month.
Housing starts in October jumped and exceeded estimates. New construction on housing surged 13.7% in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.29 million, according to the Census Bureau. Analysts expected a dip to 1.19 million after a reading of 1.127 million in September. Building permits rose by 5.9% to 1.3 million, also ahead of consensus.
"The strength in starts and permits this month comes on the heels of yesterday's rise in home builder sentiment to an 8-month high," Scott Volling, principal at PwC, wrote in a note. "While builders continue to face rising costs and a challenging environment for labor and land, they are buoyed up by a shortage of existing homes for sale which is driving buyers to new homes."
In deal news Friday, Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) - Get Report and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) - Get Reportreportedly have both expressed interest in acquiring assets of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA) - Get Report . The move follows discussions between Walt Disney Co. (DIS) - Get Report and the Rupert Murdoch-owned media conglomerate, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Comcast is interested in buying a substantial piece of Twenty-First Century Fox, while Verizon's interest is still in the preliminary stages, according to the Journal. Assets potentially for sale include Twentieth Century Fox studio, U.S. cable operations and international businesses. Fox news, the company's sports channels and Fox broadcast network haven't been included in the talks, the Journal reported.
Shares of Twenty-First Century Fox were rising 7% on Friday.
- Fox Hunt Widens as Comcast, Verizon Reportedly Join Disney Pursuit
- Comcast, Verizon Interest in Fox Sends Sky Stock Up
Retail shares were in rally mode after better-than-expected earnings from Gap Inc. (GPS) - Get Report , Foot Locker Inc. (FL) - Get Report and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) - Get Report . Other retailers on the rise included Target Corp. (TGT) - Get Report , American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) - Get Report , Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) - Get Report , Urban Outfitters Inc. (URBN) - Get Report and Guess? Inc. (GES) - Get Report . The S&P Retail SPDR ETF (XRT) - Get Report jumped more than 2%.
Gap shares rose 6.5% on Friday after the retailer reported its fourth consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth. During the fiscal third quarter, ended Oct. 28, Gap generated sales of $3.84 billion, up 1% year over year and ahead of the consensus estimate of $3.76 billion, according to analysts surveyed by FactSet. Same-store sales jumped 3%. Earnings of 58 cents a share exceeded estimates of 54 cents.
At Old Navy, Gap's strongest franchise, sales rose 4%, the same amount as they did a year earlier. Gap brand sales grew 1%, up from a 4% decline last year, while sales at Banana Republic fell 1%, an improvement from the 6% decline last year.
The San Francisco-based retailer also increased its full-year earnings guidance to $2.08 to $2.12 to share, up from $2.02 to $2.10.
Foot Locker Inc. (FL) - Get Report rocketed 21% higher on Friday after posting better-than-expected profit and revenue over its third quarter. Adjusted earnings of 87 cents a share beat estimates by seven cents. Revenue of $1.87 billion exceeded expectations of $1.83 billion. Same-store sales fell by 3.7%, a narrower dip than consensus of a 4.6% decline. CEO Richard Johnson said the sportshoe retailer faced a "highly promotional" retail environment over the quarter.
Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (ANF) - Get Report rallied 25% following a third-quarter beat. Quarterly earnings of 30 cents a share topped estimates by eight cents. Revenue increased nearly 5% to $859.11 million and exceeded consensus by $40.2 million. Comparable sales roared 4% higher, largely driven by growth at its Hollister brand. Comps were far better than an expected 0.3% increase. Gross margins expanded by 80 basis points to 61.3%.
Tesla Inc. (TSLA) - Get Report CEO Elon Musk unveiled on Thursday a new electric powered semi tractor-trailer truck with a range of 500 miles, and then made a surprise announcement of a new roadster that he said would be the fastest production car ever, with a top speed of 250 mph. The announcements marked the electric carmaker's latest transportation forays even as it struggles to build and deliver tens of thousands of its model 3 automobiles.
Musk said the trucks, scheduled to begin production in 2019, will accelerate from 0-60 mph with a full load of 80,000 pounds in 20 seconds. He also claimed the vehicles have a lower drag coefficient than a Bugatti Chiron supercar. No pricing data was offered, but Tesla is asking for $5,000 to reserve one of the vehicles.
- Tesla CEO Musk Unveils Electric Truck, High-End Roadster
- Tesla Gains in Premarket Trading After Unveiling Truck and Roadster
Trucking company J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. (JBHT) - Get Report announced Friday that it placed a reservation for "multiple" Tesla Semi tractors. J.B. Hunt, which is one of the largest supply chain companies in North America, said it plans to deploy the electric semi trucks to its intermodal and dedicated contract services divisions on the West Coast.
Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS) - Get Report confirmed that Sandell Asset Management had proposed a go-private transaction that valued the bookstore retailer at more than $650 million. However, given how much debt financing Sandell would require, Barnes & Noble said it doesn't see it as a "bona fide" offer. Sandell owns around 1 million Barnes & Noble shares.
Updated from 9:36 a.m. ET, Nov. 17.
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