Midday Update: Stocks Slide, Oil Prices Lower, Volatility to 11-Week High

Stocks are lower on Wednesday, as investors remain uncertain over the future of tax reform and as oil prices fall sharply.
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Stocks snapped sharply lower in early trading Wednesday as investors braced for the impact of the GOP's tax cut plans. Also dampening investor sentiment was yet another day of sharp declines in oil prices. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave back about 80 points. The S&P 500 Index fell close to 0.4%. Both the Dow and the S&P are lower for the fourth day in five. The Nasdaq dipped 0.4%, down for the second consecutive day. The CBOE Volatility Index, commonly regarded as Wall Street's best fear gauge, jumped as much as 20% Wednesday to its highest reading since August 29.

The week-long slide in oil prices accelerated distinctly on Wednesday as traders digested a surprise increase in U.S. crude inventories, a forecast for weaker demand growth and suggestions that Russia isn't ready to extend OPEC-coordinated production cuts. Global benchmark Brent crude fell as low as $61.34 a barrel in overnight trading, before regaining some to trade down 1% on Wednesday to $61.58 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate crude oil slumped 0.8% to $55.23 a barrel.

Lawmakers in the House will be meeting to debate tax reform Wednesday and are expected to vote Thursday, after President Donald Trump rallies lawmakers in support of the legislation. A vote -- or any move forward -- will offer investors more direction on the fate of the much-anticipated legislation. House leaders have said they'll have enough votes to pass their version this week.

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