* Congress to vote on tax bill afternoon onwards
* Apple slips after Instinet downgrade to neutral
* Wal-Mart, Altria gain after positive broker comments
* Crypto bets hit by trading suspension for The Crypto Co
* Indexes down: S&P 0.15 pct, Nasdaq 0.31 pct, Dow 0.24 pct (Changes comment, updates prices, adds details)
By Sruthi Shankar
Dec 19 (Reuters) - Wall Street dipped on Tuesday, ahead of a vote on a bill to overhaul the U.S. tax system, weighed down by an Apple-led pullback after two strong session of gains on rising hopes that the U.S. Congress will vote in favor of the bill.
The House of Representatives will vote on the bill in the afternoon, followed by the Senate later in evening. The bill will likely be signed into law by the end of the week.
The bill would cut corporate tax rates to 21 percent from 35 percent, which investors are betting will boost profits as well as trigger share buybacks and higher dividend payouts.
“Obviously there is high confidence that it will get passed, but there is a very narrow margin for error, within the Senate especially. So there’s a little bit of a pause to see what’s going to happen,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer of Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Apple fell 1.2 percent after broker Instinet downgraded the stock to “neutral,” saying the supply-demand balance for the iPhone X suggested little space to raise sales estimates for the next quarter.
The S&P 500 technology sector fell 0.53 percent, with tech stocks weighing the most on the major indexes.
At 10:53 a.m. ET (1553 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 58.47 points, or 0.24 percent, at 24,733.73 and the S&P 500 was down 4 points, or 0.15 percent, at 2,686.16.
The Nasdaq Composite was down 21.92 points, or 0.31 percent, at 6,972.84. On Monday, the index briefly topped 7,000-point mark for the first time on rising hopes of the tax bill being passed.
Six of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, led by the tech sector. The gainers were led by the consumer staple index’s 0.51 percent increase.
Altria rose 2 percent after Berenberg upgraded the stock saying a lower tax rate would boost the tobacco company’s profit and shareholder payouts.
Wal-Mart rose 0.8 percent after Citigroup upgraded the stock to “buy”, on expectations that the retailer’s shares will rise further in 2018.
Zimmer Biomet jumped 6.5 percent, the S&P’s biggest gainer, after the company appointed a full-time chief executive.
U.S. securities regulators temporarily suspended trading in the shares of The Crypto Co, up more than 2,700 percent this month after its cryptocurrency plans, on concerns about the “accuracy and adequacy” of its publicly-available information.
Shares of other small companies, which have surged on their own plans to cash in on the cryptocurrency craze, also dropped. First Bitcoin, USA Real Estate Holding, UBI Blockchain tumbled between 15 percent and 21 percent.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,521 to 1,210. On the Nasdaq, 1,383 issues rose and 1,334 fell. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza)