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Health care sector falls as likelihood of ACA repeal rises; UnitedHealth's stock leads Dow losers
The health care sector traded broadly lower Tuesday, amid concerns over the potential effects of the Graham-Cassidy bill, which some analysts say is becoming increasingly likely to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The SPDR Health Care Select Sector ETF shed 0.9% in afternoon trade, with 56 of its 62 components trading lower. Among the XLV's most heavily-weighted components, UnitedHealth Group's stock dropped 1.8% to pace the Dow Jones Industrial Average's decliners. The price decline of $3.61 was shaving 25 points off the Dow, which was up 44 points. Analyst Ana Gupte at Leerink Research said the bill could lead to "greater earnings downside in the near term than previous House and Senate bills for ACA-levered stocks." Among companies that Gupte said are at particular risk, shares of Centene Corp. slumped 4.6% and Molina Healthcare Inc. gave up 6.1%. Elsewhere, shares of Aetna Inc. fell 3.4%, Humana Inc. slid 3.2%, Cigna Corp. declined 1.9% and Anthem Inc. was down 2.0%. Gupte said diversified managed care organizations (MCOs) like Humana and Cigna are more defensive, though exposure should be manageable for UnitedHealth, Aetna and Anthem. The XLV has gained 4.3% over the past three months, while the S&P 500 has tacked on 2.2%.Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.
GOP health bill boosts hospital, health insurer and drug stocks
Hospital system stocks rallied as much as 8% on Thursday following the release of the Senate GOP health bill, which appears to be more favorable to hospitals than the House of Representatives bill passed in early May. Tenet Healthcare Corporation shares jumped 8%, Community Health Systems Inc. shares skyrocketed 8.2%, HCA Healthcare Inc. shares rose 3.6% and Universal Health Services Inc. shares lifted 2.6% in midday trade, compared with a 1.6% rise in the Health Care Select Sector SPDR . Health insurer stocks also rose Tuesday, with UnitedHealth Group shares up 1.4%, Aetna Inc. stock rising 1.1%, Humana Inc. shares lifting 1.3% and Anthem Inc. shares up 0.9%, compared with a 0.2% rise in the S&P 500 . The Senate health bill "tries to phase in the pain" of changes to the Affordable Care Act like Medicaid spending cuts, said Spencer Perlman, director of health-care research at Veda Partners, who described the Senate plan as having "the same architecture" but "nicer furnishings." Still, the benefit for hospitals is only in the short-term and thus probably overdone, he said. "Clearly, the Senate bill is viewed as less disruptive than the House bill to the number of people currently receiving insurance," said Stephanie Miller, senior analyst at Height Securities. But "the initial reaction may have oversimplified how different this bill is," she said, predicting that stocks that have risen on the news may be "rebalancing" in the coming days. Drug stocks also rose in Tuesday trade, with the SPDR S&P Pharmaceutical ETF rising 1.7% and the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF rising 1.6%, which could be happening because the health bill has given investors confidence in Republicans achieving another legislative priority, tax reform, Miller said. Shares of the Health Care Select Sector SPDR have risen 8.7% over the last three months, compared with a 3.9% rise in the S&P 500 . Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.
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