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The Dow Jones news today features stocks rising in pre-market hours as investors prepare for what could be a volatile day in the markets. All eyes are in Washington, where Republicans will attempt to finally repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Some are predicting that a "Trump dump" or "Trump tantrum" could hit the markets should the healthcare replacement bill fail to pass. Such negative sentiment set off a sharp downturn in the markets earlier this week.
A loss today by Republicans would also empower President Donald Trump's critics and help them align against other policy priorities in the year ahead. In fact, a number of his wealthier opponents – including George Soros — are in the planning stages of a leftist "Tea Party" movement to challenge the Trump presidency.
How Stocks Will React to the Healthcare Vote
On Wednesday, the markets were flat as investors took a wait-and-see approach to Thursday's vote on to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Despite a terrorist attack in London and renewed threats from North Korea, the markets held their ground.
Let's look at the numbers from Wednesday for the Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq:
Dow Jones: 20,661.30; -6.71; -0.03%
S&P 500: 2,348.44; +4.43; +0.19%
Nasdaq: 5,821.64; +27.82; +0.48%
Here's a look at today's most important market events and stocks, plus a look at Thursday's economic calendar.
What's Ahead for the Dow Jones Industrial Average Today
The Dow Jones futures projected a 12-point gain ahead of a critical vote in Congress on the future of the Affordable Care Act. Republicans will be leading the charge on a new healthcare law that would repeal and replace Obamacare. However, failure to pass the law would cast doubt on important policy expectations that have been driving the U.S. markets in recent months. A defeat of the bill could impact corporate tax reform, deregulatory efforts, and a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, all of which are expected to provide growth to the economy and help propel the stock markets.
Crude oil prices were making small gains a day after the commodity fell to its lowest level since November 2016. The downturn came after the Energy Information Administration reported another large gain in U.S. crude stocks. Rising U.S. production and inventory levels have offset optimism about the progress of a deal among OPEC and 11 other non-member nations to cap excessive production. The WTI crude oil price today fell 0.12%. Brent crude fell 0.3%.
Trending: The Best Oil Company Stocks to Buy Now
But the big news is the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Before opening bell, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will offer the opening keynote speech at the Federal Reserve System Community Development Research Conference in Washington.
Markets are always paying attention to the Fed chair's statements, but this one is especially important given the direction the central bank has taken with monetary policy in the last week. The Fed just hiked interest rates for the second time in three months. But while several key members have signaled that the central bank wants to increase rates again, Yellen took a more dovish approach during the March FOMC meeting.
The Fed has now altered its stance and doesn't appear to have a true time table for any additional efforts to tighten monetary policy. Could there be a reason for such indecision?
Money Morning Options Trading Specialist Tom Gentile has a prediction. And you can make a lot of money by playing the one industry that could implode if we see another rate hike of 0.25%.
Stocks to Watch Today, March 23, 2017:
- Shares of Sears Holding Corp. (Nasdaq: SHLD) fell another 4% in pre-market hours, a day after the company said that its own survival is in doubt in a regulatory filing. The company has experienced a decade of sharp sales declines and financial losses. On Wednesday, SHLD stock fell another 12%. Now, it appears that the stock could very well go bankrupt in the months ahead. Here are seven reasons why the probability of a Sears bankruptcy is now around 100%.
- In earnings news, shares of Conagra Brands Inc. (NYSE: CAG) fell another 1.8% after the company fell short of Wall Street expectations. The maker of various popular food brands experienced almost a 10% decline in third-quarter net sales. The firm did report earnings per share of $0.48, which topped expectations of $0.45. However, the firm did come in short on revenue and continues to face competitive pressures in a challenging retail environment.
- Shares of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq ADR: TEVA) added 0.6% after it denied media reports that was slashing 6,000 jobs. The pharmaceutical giant did confirm that it was freezing its recruitment process and not hiring replacements for several roles.
- Look for additional earnings reports from Micron Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: MU), GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME), Accenture Plc. (NYSE: CAN), and KB Home (NYSE: KBH).
Today's U.S. Economic Calendar (all times EDT)
- Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m.
- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks at 8:45 a.m.
- Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index at 9:45 a.m.
- New Home Sales at 10 a.m.
- EIA Natural Gas Report at 10:30 a.m.
- Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index at 11 a.m.
- Three-Month Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- Six-Month Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 52-Week Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- Two-Year FRN Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- Two-Year Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- Five-Year Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- Seven-Year Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari speaks at 12:30 p.m.
- 10-Year TIPS Auction at 1 p.m.
- Fed Balance Sheet at 4:30 p.m.
- Money Supply at 4:30 p.m.