Campaigning in 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump declared: "Obamacare. We're going to repeal it, we're going to replace it, get something great. Repeal it, replace it, get something great!"
Trump also asserted: "Everybody's got to be covered."
Surveying events in Congress this past week brings to mind the catchphrase of the Saturday Night Live character Emily Litella: "Nevermind."
In the week ahead, keep an eye on two sectors: financial services and health care.
You can expect volatility among bank stocks, as Republican effectiveness on tax reform comes under merciless scrutiny. Conversely, with uncertainty over Obamacare repeal off the table, the health industry should breathe a sigh of relief. Hospital and managed care stocks, in particular, are positioned to rally.
Friday's drama on Capitol Hill was a watershed moment for investors.
President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan suffered a humiliating defeat Friday afternoon shortly before the market closed, when Ryan was compelled to pull the American Health Care Act (AHCA), otherwise known as "Trumpcare." It was increasingly apparent that the widely hated AHCA was well short of the votes needed to pass. A chastened Ryan said Friday: "Obamacare is the law of the land."
Now Team Trump turns to tax reform, but Wall Street is nervously asking: can Trump deliver on any of his promises? Trump sold himself as a master negotiator, the consummate practitioner of the "art of the deal," but after Trumpcare's disastrous demise, investors aren't so sure.
The messy political wrangling over Trumpcare this past week has weighed on stocks. The S&P 500 (SPY - Get Report) closed the week down 1.23%, with bank stocks among the hardest hit. The benchmark Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF - Get Report) closed on Friday with a loss of 3.36% for the week.
Since Nov. 9, the upward momentum in stocks has been driven by optimism over Trump's pro-business policies, especially his vow to slash corporate and personal income taxes. Indeed, a key component of Trumpcare was a reduction in taxes for the wealthy.
Yet the market has fallen in recent weeks as investors start to worry that perhaps the emperor in the Oval Office is wearing no clothes.
Trump's team is now chomping at the bit to tackle tax reform. The president was mocked by Democrats for saying "nobody knew health care could be so complicated." He will discover that changing the tax code is complicated, too. Perhaps more so.
The financial community is waiting to see if the president has the political clout and skills to get the job done. So far, the signs aren't encouraging. In the meantime, stocks that are integral to Obamacare's managed care controls are likely to soar in coming days.
These health sector equities include Molina Healthcare (MOH - Get Report) , which jumped 4.64% on Friday after it became obvious that Trumpcare was dead. Molina operates health plans for millions of Americans eligible for Medicaid, Medicare and other government-sponsored programs.
Also on Friday, major for-profit hospital operators posted the following big gains: Community Health Systems (CYH - Get Report) (+7.40%), Tenet Healthcare (THC - Get Report) (+9.66%), LifePoint Health (LPNT) (+3.50%), HCA Holdings (HCA - Get Report) (+3.45%), and Universal Health Services (UHS - Get Report) (+2.58%). The S&P 500 was down 0.08% for the day.
Brace yourself for market choppiness in the days ahead. If tax reform runs into trouble, the overvalued stock market will probably head south.
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