Stocks struggled on Wednesday as sharp losses in the health-care sector offset strong quarterly earnings results.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 3.12 points to 26,449.54, while the S&P 500 fell 0.2% to 2,900.45. The Nasdaq Composite closed 0.05% lower at 7,996.08. The Nasdaq 100, which is made up of the 100 largest companies in the composite index, rose 0.3% and hit a record high.
Health care fell 2.9% as a sector, eclipsing a 2% drop from the previous session.
"Health care is one of the poorest performers this year," said Ernie Cecilia, CIO at Bryn Mawr Trust. "Some of it is political. The prospects from a regulatory perspective, certainly in managed care and some of the large pharmaceutical companies, is a question mark."
The sector's sharp losses came after UnitedHealth CEO David Wichmann warned that proposals pushed by Democratic lawmakers, such as "Medicare for All," would "surely jeopardize the relationship people have with their doctors, destabilize the nation's health system and limit the ability of clinicians to practice medicine at their best."
Wichmann's comment sent UnitedHealth shares down 4% on Tuesday; they fell another 1.9% on Wednesday. Other health-care names like Alexion Pharmaceuticals and DaVita fell 8.1% and 7.7%, respectively.
Health-care names are now falling "under that umbrella of political uncertainty," said Yousef Abbasi, director of U.S. institutional equities at INTL FCStone. "A lot of people are going to get more uncomfortable with the situation in managed care before they get comfortable with it."