Wall St. set to rise at open as tax reform enters last lap

Wall St. set to rise at open as tax reform enters last lap Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 6, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Rama Venkat Raman

(Reuters) – Wall Street was poised to open higher on Thursday, aided by gains for banking shares and news that the Republicans’ tax code overhaul should face final votes in Congress before the year-end.

A final bill could be formally unveiled on Friday, with decisive votes expected next week in both chambers.

On Wednesday, Republicans in the Senate and the House reached a deal on final tax legislation, paving the way for final votes next week on a package that would slash the corporate tax rate to 21 percent.

“We have a pretty positive background, investors are focused on the tax deal that they are closed to an agreement between the House and the Senate,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It will take some time to go through the details, what that means for specific companies but it’s consistent with the general positive tone.”

Traders also focused on a $52.4 billion stock deal between Walt Disney <DIS.N> and Twenty-First Century Fox <FOXA.O>.

Shares of media baron Rupert Murdoch’s Fox fell marginally in choppy trading after Walt Disney agreed to buy the Fox’s film, television and international businesses. Disney shares were also down 0.9 percent.

Goldman Sachs <GS.N>, JPMorgan <JPM.N>, Wells Fargo <WFC.N> and Bank of America <BAC.N> rose between 0.52 percent and 0.86 percent ahead of market open.

Shares of big banks recovered early in the day from an initial decline after the Federal Reserve raised rates by 25 basis points but kept its outlook for 2018 and 2019 unchanged.

At 8:34 a.m. ET (1334 GMT), Dow e-minis <1YMc1> were up 32 points, or 0.13 percent, with 8,450 contracts changing hands.

S&P 500 e-minis <ESc1> were up 1.5 points, or 0.06 percent, with 69,766 contracts traded.

Nasdaq 100 e-minis <NQc1> were up 6 points, or 0.09 percent, on volume of 7,313 contracts.

U.S. retail sales increased more than expected in November as the holiday shopping season got off to a brisk start, pointing to sustained strength in the economy.

A Commerce Department report showed retail sales rose 0.8 percent in November, while economists polled by Reuters has forecast a 0.3 percent rise.

Among other big movers, Express Scripts <ESRX.O> gained about 2 percent after pharmacy benefit manager forecast full-year 2018 earnings that topped analysts’ expectations.

U.S.-listed shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals <VRX.N> fell 4.2 percent after JPMorgan cut the stock’s rating to ‘underweight’.

Israel-based drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical’s <TEVA.N> shares soared 15 percent after the company announced job cuts, asset sale and dividend suspension in an overhaul to pay back debt.

(Reporting by Rama Venkat Raman in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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