While you were sleeping: Walt Disney, Fox shares climb as Dow falls

Tax bill hitch spooks investors, US retail sales rise in November. 

Wall Street moved lower as investors raised concerns about delays in the final negotiations on the Republican tax bill.

Bucking the trend, shares of Walt Disney rose 2.8% after the company agreed to buy most of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox for $US52.4 billion in an all-stock deal.

Before the acquisition, 21st Century Fox will separate the Fox Broadcasting network and stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network into a newly listed company that will be spun off to its shareholders, the companies said in a statement. Fox shares surged 6.5%.

"The deal illustrates the huge strategic challenge traditional media companies face and how they need to reinvent their business models to compete with digital, online competitors such as Netflix, Google and Amazon," Nick Jones, partner and head of technology at Cavendish Corporate Finance, told Reuters.

It "helps Disney dramatically reduce its reliance on traditional television, a business that has declined over the last two decades."

At the close trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 76.77 points, or 0.3%, to 24,508.66. The Nasdaq Composite Index slid 0.25% to 6856.53 and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 0.4% to 2652.01.

Senator Rubio opposes tax bill
The session began with the Dow climbing to a record 24,672.48 before it started sliding to end on its low after Senator Marco Rubio announced his opposition to the tax bill until it included bigger child tax credits for low-income families.

"Talks on tax reforms and the Fed announcement brings confidence in the fact that the economy is still moving in a positive and sustained fashion," Paul Springmeyer, investment managing director at US Bank Private Wealth Management, told Reuters.

"You've seen some M&A activity hit the screens that is driving some interest as well-that's a three-legged soul that's moving the market."

In the latest US economic data, a Commerce Department report showed a better-than-expected increase in retail sales in November, rising 0.8%.

"With broad-based gains across a number of key categories, US retailers are already feeling a bit more cheer this holiday season," Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel Nicolaus & Co, wrote in an email, Bloomberg reported.

"The consumer appears to have double downed on their optimism for fiscal reform translating into more cash in their pockets next year to supplement the rise in spending absent meaningful income growth."

Stocks fall in Europe
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index fell 0.5%. Germany's DAX Index fell 0.4%, the UK's FTSE 100 Index dropped 0.7% and France's CAC 40 Index shed 0.8%.

European Central Bank policy makers kept their key interest rate as well as their asset purchase programme unchanged, as had been widely anticipated, at a governing council meeting. Inflation remains a key issue.

"The incoming information, including our new staff projections, indicates a strong pace of economic expansion and a significant improvement in the growth outlook," ECB President Mario Draghi told reporters in Frankfurt. "At the same time, domestic price pressures remain muted overall and have yet to show convincing signs of a sustained upward trend."

The ECB upgraded its forecasts for eurozone economic growth this year to 2.4% from a previous estimate for 2.2%. It also lifted its growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019.

"For the ECB, the big question is what is their next steps once tapering is done?" Alex Dryden, a London-based market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, told Bloomberg. "The most important central bank to be watching in 2018 is the ECB. They are the ones with some of the biggest question marks over their heads, there's a lot of clarity that is needed on what will be happening there."