U.S. stocks volatile on Obama health care proposal

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The S&P 500 tracked Asian indices to open up higher, then reversed course dramatically after President Barack Obama's health care proposal was announced at 10:00 a.m in New York, followed by modest gains which have turned negative.

The S&P 500 Index is down 1.52 points, or 0.14 percent to trade at 1,107.65 at 11:09 a.m. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up down 13.22 points, or 0.13 percent to trade at 10,389.13.

Health insurance firms showed the most volatility on Monday, with Coventry (CVH), WellPoint (NYSE:WLP), and Aetna (NYSE:AET) trading up substantially early in the session, dipping into negative territory after the announcement, and then rebounding to trade at a gain.  

Coventry is up 0.13 percent, WellPoint is up 1.33 percent, and Aetna is up 1.31 percent. 

The President unveiled his modified health care bill proposal on Monday and will participate in a televised discussion on Thursday in an effort to build bipartisan support.  

The plans, which resemble the previously passed Senate version, targets expensive premiums and include provisions to help seniors and low-income families.  The proposal includes tax credits for families. 

On Monday morning before the open, Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) reported earnings of $0.14 per share for the fourth quarter.  The figure beat expectations of $0.12 and grew 26.5 percent year-on-year.  Its shares are down 0.48 percent. 

Overall, sales increased slightly for the quarter but comparable store sales declined.  The firm opened 11 stores during the quarter and plans to open 11 more the next quarter.

Housing stocks will be eyed by market participants this week as Home Depot (NYSE:HD) will report earnings on Tuesday and various housing reports will be released on Wednesday and Friday.

The Chinese stock market, trading for the first time a week after Chinese New Year, closed at a slight loss as investors digested the Chinese reserve requirement hike, first announced in on February 12 after the Chinese stock market closed.

While the Shanghai composite Index closed down 0.49 percent, other Asian stock markets continued to rally.  The Nikkei 225 jumped 2.74 percent and the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index, whose components were open for trading last week, gained 2.43 percent.

The market also largely shrugged off the Fed's move last Thursday to hike the discount rate.  The U.S. stock market reversed early morning losses last Friday as fears of more drastic contractionary measures subsided.

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