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Nasdaq closes higher as Facebook rises; rest of market ends little changed

  • Tech stocks posted consecutive gains after slipping over the past week.
  • Investors also kept an eye on Washington as they awaited new details on Congress negotiations to overhaul the U.S. tax code.

Tech stocks rose on the back of gains in Facebook. The rest of the market took a pause as investors awaited more details on what the final tax overhaul from Congress will look like.

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The Nasdaq composite rose 0.21 percent to close at 6,776.38 as Facebook share gained nearly 2 percent. Evercore ISI initiated Facebook with an outperform rating. Analyst Anthony DiClemente said Facebook will lead the "FANG" stocks higher in 2018.

The S&P 500 closed around breakeven at 2,629.27, as information technology rose 0.8 percent, while energy lost 1.3 percent amid falling oil prices. Tech stocks posted consecutive gains after being pressured over the past week.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 39.73 points to close at 24,140.91, despite with Microsoft rising 1.5 percent.

Investors scrutinized Washington as they awaited new details on Congress negotiations to overhaul the U.S. tax code. The GOP-led Congress passed a bill on Saturday that increased the chances of the overhaul —which would significantly lower corporate taxed — taking place this year.

But the Senate's bill is different than another one passed by the House. Now both chambers have to work on and pass a new bill before sending it to the White House.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Expectations of tax reform have been a boon for U.S. stocks all year, helping then surge to record highs. But the rip-roaring rally has slowed down recently. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq completed a first three-day losing streak on Tuesday, their first since August.

"You definitely have a market that's taking a pause," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR. "I think it's really about how quickly we've rotated into the pro-tax reform sectors."

Financials, one of the sectors that would theoretically benefit greatly from lower corporate taxes, have been on a tear recently. The sector is up 1.4 percent over the past week. Tech, meanwhile, is down more than half a percent in the same period.

Komal Sri-Kumar, president of Sri-Kumar Global Strategies, said the market is taking a pause as it's "not clear that the tax changes that the Senate approved during the early hours of Saturday are going to be as stimulative as the markets first thought."

Investors also looked ahead to a potential government shutdown. If Congress fails to craft a deal on government spending by the end of the week, the federal government could close until a deal is struck.

The House Rules Committee had delayed a meeting from Tuesday to Wednesday to discuss funding rules after the deadline on Friday.

"The reason this delay increases a potential shutdown threat slightly is that it leaves the Senate less time to pass a funding agreement and increases the difficulty in negotiating a compromise with the House should one become necessary," said Larry McDonald, head of the U.S. macro strategies at ACG Analytics and editor of The Bear Traps Report, in a note.

U.S. equities kicked off the session trading lower as overseas stocks declined. Asian stocks fell broadly, with Japan's Nikkei 225 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index both pulling 2 percent. The Shanghai composite also fell 0.3 percent.

In Europe, equities also declined. The German Dax dropped 0.4 percent while the Stoxx 600 index slipped 0.1 percent.

"We're seeing some end-of-year jitters and we're now taking some profits," said Adam Sarhan, CEO of 50 Park Investments.

In corporate news, drone maker AeroVironment shares hit an all-time high after the company posted strong quarterly sales.

Meanwhile, OSI Systems plunged nearly 30 percent after famed short seller Carson Block called the company "rotten to the core."

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