SYDNEY/LONDON - U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday, rebounding from stunning overnight losses fueled by the U.S. election as sectors that appeared poised to benefit from a Donald Trump presidency led the charge.
After tremendous losses in the overnight session, the Dow and S&P 500 briefly turned positive shortly after the open. Strong gains in the heavily weighted healthcare sector, up 2.9 percent, and financials, up 2.5 percent, kept the market within striking distance of the unchanged level.
A curb on drug pricing was one of the key campaign themes for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, while Republican President-elect Donald Trump has called for repealing the Affordable Care Act and loosening restrictions on banks enacted after the financial crisis.
"There was the potential for, maybe not all the way to price controls, but certainly more pressure on some of the pharma names and that has likely gone away," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.
"It remains to be seen what President Trump and the Republicans will do on the healthcare side, certainly that has been a drumbeat for eight years now about the repeal of Obamacare"
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20.78 points, or 0.11 percent, to 18,353.52, the S&P 500 lost 2.1 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,137.46 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 12.34 points, or 0.24 percent, to 5,181.15.
Through the night, financial markets reacted violently to poll results and as Clinton's path to victory narrowed. The S&P futures slid 5 percent and hit a limit down, meaning the contract could not trade lower, only sideways or up. Dow Industrials futures briefly fell 800 points.
Republicans also maintained their majorities in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, enabling the party to reshape Washington with two years of "unified" government.
"The reality is the President doesn't dominate everything and we are still going to have a fairly split and divided Congress because even though the Republicans technically have control of the House and the Senate, they don't have strong control," said Jason Pride, director of investment strategy at Glenmede in Philadelphia.
"The lack of strong control kind of handicaps their ability to push through, or handicaps any one person, particularly the President's ability, to push through extreme policies," he said.
Wall Street is typically seen as preferring gridlock, or shared control of the White House and Congress, than a sweep of both chambers of Congress and the presidency.
The CBOE Volatility index futures shot nearly 40 percent higher at one point, reflecting investors' reservations over a Trump presidency, but sharply retraced that advance after Trump's acceptance speech. During the session the CBOE Volatility index was down 11.5 percent.
"Certainly (the trading floor) has a much different tone than what it did just several hours ago, but for now things remain very orderly and we would anticipate that tone to continue or improve as we get closer to the open," said Ryan Larson, head of equity trading, U.S. at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago, Illinois.
Big pharmaceutical names gained, with Pfizer jumping 7.8 percent to $32.34. The iShares Nasdsaq Biotechnology ETF climbed 7.2 percent and was on track for its biggest daily percentage gain in eight years.