The Senate gave more details on its tax plan this week, but that triggered worries over how it coalesces with the House's bill. Those concerns sparked losses over Thursday, Nov. 9, and Friday, Nov. 10, pulling indexes from records and sending stocks lower for the week.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.50% from Monday's session through Friday's close and ended with its first weekly decline after eight straight weeks of gains. Even so, the two days of losses had not pulled the index too far from its records -- the index remained less than 150 points from an all-time closing high set on Wednesday, Nov. 8.
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also ended with weekly declines, the former for its first in nine weeks and the latter its first in seven. Both also secured record closes on Wednesday. The S&P 500 dropped by 0.21% during the week and the Nasdaq declined by 0.20%.
All three benchmark indexes have closed at record highs on the same day over 27 sessions so far this year, according to Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial. That marks a record -- the second-most simultaneous record closes was 25 sessions in 1995.
Tax Reform Makes Some Progress
The House made progress on tax legislation in the past week, but its passage looks more uncertain after the Senate's bill highlighted key differences in the chambers' approaches to reform.
The Senate's bill, released on Thursday, proposes holding the number of tax brackets at seven, but doing away with the state and local tax deductions, which allow individuals in heavily-taxed states and districts to subtract those bills from their federal taxable income. The House had compromised with a deduction of up to $10,000 for state and local property taxes, but no deductions on income tax.
The House's tax bill proposed reducing the number of income brackets to four from seven. A top rate of 35% would apply to the highest earners making up to $1 million. However, a top rate of 39.6% would remain for those with income of more than $1 million.
Most critically for Wall Street, the Senate's plan proposes cutting the corporate tax rate to 20% permanently, but delaying that change until 2019. The House GOP and the Trump administration pushed for the tax cut to be implemented immediately.
The House Ways and Means Committee passed its Tax Cut and Jobs Act bill on Thursday afternoon, pushing the legislation toward a vote in the House next week. The bill passed by a vote of 24 to 16 after Committee Chairman Kevin Brady made revisions on Thursday in efforts to generate broader support and lower the original's increase in the deficit.
Among those changes, the House introduced a new tax rate of 9% for small businesses earning less than $75,000 in income. The adoption tax credit was also preserved after initially being removed in the original version.
Tweaks were made after initial calculations found that it increased the deficit by a massive amount, debt President Donald Trump and Republicans had pledged to reduce once they were in power. The House's original plan would have raised the deficit by around $1.7 trillion over a decade, the Congressional Budget Office said on Wednesday. That surpasses the $1.5 trillion threshold needed so the Senate can vote along party lines, according to Senate rules. Any more than that and the bill would require 60 votes to pass, meaning Republicans would have to court votes across the aisle.
House Speaker Paul Ryan conceded in a statement on Thursday that the House bill will not definitively cut rates for everyone. Instead, individual income tax rates would be cut for those making less than $1 million a year. However, eliminating certain exemptions and deductions could mean an overall higher tax bill for individuals.
Even with stocks lower on Thursday and Friday in response to tax talk, Kevin Miller, CEO and portfolio manager at E-Valuator Funds, does not expect a prolonged market downturn should the GOP's plans fail to pass.
"I don't think we would see a significant selloff if it didn't pass, but it might be a pullback," Miller told TheStreet in a call. "The earnings reports are coming in very strong. So I think it would just slow down the potential upside as opposed to creating a big drawback."
Earnings Season Nears Its End
Media and retail earnings capped a better-than-expected third-quarter earnings season. Overall, S&P 500 companies have exceeded analysts' estimates and posted another quarter of year-on-year profit growth.
"If you take the last two quarters, and certainly this quarter, it's pretty hard to say that it hasn't gone very well," Aviance Capital Management chief investment officer Chris Bertelsen told TheStreet.
Positive earnings should continue to fuel equities growth through the rest of the year, barring some unforeseen event, Bertelsen added.
"If we get a global political risk event of some sort, like North Korea, Iran, you pick it, then that will make the market come in quite a bit," he said. "If there's no tax package or something that would disappoint the market. But the strongest leg of the three-legged stool here is earnings."
In retail earnings this week, Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) beat earnings and sales estimates for its third quarter, a positive result in an otherwise tough retail environment. However, the retailer reported a 0.9% drop in comparable sales for its October-ended quarter.
Fellow retailer J.C. Penney Corp. (JCP) also reported a better quarter than anticipated. Third-quarter same-store sales increased 1.7%, a faster pace than an expected 0.6%. For fiscal 2017, J.C. Penney targets flat to 1% growth for same-store sales.
Macy's Inc. (M) reported third-quarter adjusted earnings of 23 cents a share, beating forecasts that called for 19 cents. Same-store sales fell 4%, Macy's 11th consecutive quarter of same-store sales declines.
Walt Disney Co. (DIS) disappointed analysts in its fiscal fourth quarter. The world's largest entertainment company reported a 2.7% decrease in sales over its three-month period, a surprise to analysts looking for a 1.2% increase.
Revenue in its media networks unit, which accounts for 43% of total revenue, fell by 3% over the recent quarter, while profits dropped by 12%. That unit has been pressured by declines in paid subscribers, higher programming costs, lower advertising sales, and an underperforming ESPN.
Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA) reported fiscal first-quarter revenue that beat analysts' expectations, while earnings were in-line with Wall Street forecasts. Fox's better-than-expected results came as investors continued to wonder what to make of a CNBC report earlier in the week that said Fox executives recently spoke with their counterparts at Disney about selling their film and TV production studio along with their Star India networks and 39% stake in Sky PLC, the enormous European satellite-TV operator.
Equifax Inc. (EFX) reported a drop in quarterly profit on Thursday as legal costs mount after a data breach earlier this year compromised more than 145 million Americans' sensitive information. Overall profit dropped 28% after the credit agency paid around $27.3 million in expenses associated with the hack. Adjusted earnings, however, rose by 6%.
Equifax projected the cost of the breach would continue to rise. In its quarterly report, Equifax said it expects to "incur significant legal and other professional services expenses associated with the cybersecurity incident in future periods."
A Year of Trump and Some Wins for Dems
Wednesday marks a year since President Donald Trump won the electoral college, but not the popular vote, ending one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in U.S. history. Since then, the Dow has gained nearly 29% in its best post-election one-year gain since Franklin D. Roosevelt won his fourth term in 1945. Roosevelt's vice president,Harry S. Truman, assumed the presidency when Roosevelt died early in 1945.
Former President Barack Obama saw a 1.8% gain in the Dow during the first year of his presidency. At that point, the economy was still in the grips of the Great Recession. However, that gain surged to a nearly 19% increase in the first year after his second win.
Meanwhile, Democrats enjoyed resounding victory on Tuesday evening in elections in New York, New Jersey and Virginia. Democrat Ralph Northam beat Trump-backed Republican Ed Gillespie in the race for Virginia governor, while voters in New Jersey elected Democrat Philip Murphy, a former executive at Goldman Sachs, as their next governor.
Northam's election was being viewed as a political setback to Donald Trump, who on Tuesday wrote on Twitter that "Ralph Northam will allow crime to be rampant in Virginia." But Trump also distanced himself from Gillespie, saying that Gillespie "did not embrace me or what I stand for."
The Democratic mayors of New York and Boston, both vocal Trump critics, also easily won re-election. Also in Virginia, Danica Roem beat out incumbent Robert G. Marshall for a seat in the House of Delegates. Roem is one of the first openly transgender elected officials, while Marshall often championed anti-LGBTQ measures.