By Noel Randewich
(Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday, with healthcare and real estate shares losing ground a day after the Nasdaq Composite and the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit record highs.
The Dow briefly rose to within 15 points of 20,000, a level it has never reached, but relinquished that gain and spent most of the session at a loss.
U.S. stocks have rallied since the Nov. 8 election, with the Dow up 9 percent and the S&P 500 gaining 6 percent on bets that President-elect Donald Trump's plans for deregulation and infrastructure spending will boost the economy.
Some investors worry that the so-called Trump rally has made stocks expensive and are concerned that legislators may resist strong tax cuts and other policies that could widen the federal deficit. The S&P 500 is trading at about 17 times expected 12-month earnings, well above the 10-year average of 14, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream.
"People are taking a pause and they want to see what's going to happen," said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Cornerstone Financial Partners. "In his first 100 days in office, it will be interesting to see what legislation they can get through Congress and what regulations they will repeal."
Providing the market with a degree of support this week, expectations of lower capital gains tax rates under Trump gave investors an incentive to not sell stocks until January, according to Zaccarelli as well as to Randy Frederick, vice president of trading & derivatives at Charles Schwab.
"If you can hold back on capital gains for two weeks, why not?" Frederick said. "There's just no incentive to sell right now."
So far in 2016, the S&P 500 has risen 11 percent, topping the 8 percent gain for the year that strategists predicted on average in a Reuters poll 12 months ago.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) dipped 0.16 percent on Wednesday to end at 19,941.96 points and the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 0.25 percent to 2,265.18.
The Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 0.23 percent to 5,471.43.
The healthcare sector (.SPXHC) dipped 0.60 percent and the real estate sector (.SPLRCR) lost 1.32 percent.
Accenture (ACN.N) shares fell 5 percent after the consulting and outsourcing software services provider's revenue forecast missed estimates. The stock was the biggest drag on the S&P 500.
Twitter (TWTR.N) fell 4.69 percent after its chief technology officer said he would leave the social networking company.
FedEx (FDX.N) fell 3.33 percent after delivering quarterly results that missed analysts' expectations.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.13-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.62-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 22 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 192 new highs and 44 new lows.
With some investors already away for the end-of-year holidays, volume was very light. About 5.4 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, well below the 7.4 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.
(Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)