Business briefing

The daily business briefing: February 14, 2017

Steven Mnuchin confirmed as treasury secretary, U.S. stock rally pauses ahead of Yellen's testimony, and more

1

A divided Senate confirms Steven Mnuchin

The Senate on Monday narrowly confirmed Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary over strong Democratic opposition. All 52 Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted in favor of confirmation in the 53-47 vote. Democrats said Mnuchin did not belong in the job, accusing him of allowing avoidable foreclosures at Pasadena's OneWest Bank, which he led after the financial crisis. Republicans said Mnuchin was well qualified. "Under any objective standard, Mr. Mnuchin has ample experience, credentials and qualifications for this important position," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Monday, accusing Democrats of "pointless delays" to confirming Mnuchin.

2

The U.S. stock rally pauses as Yellen heads to Capitol Hill

U.S. stocks pushed farther into record territory on Monday as investors continued to bet that President Trump's promised tax cuts would boost the economy and corporate profits. Trump last week promised to make a major announcement on taxes within weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.7 percent on Monday, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indexes gained 0.5 percent. The rally appeared to be taking a pause early Tuesday, however, with Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq futures edging lower, suggesting a flat open as investors await possible hints from Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen on where interest rates are headed when she appears before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday.

3

Apple shares hit record level

Apple shares closed at a record high on Monday as analysts predicted that the next iPhone would lift sales. The stock rose by under 1 percent, closing at $133.29. The surge boosted Apple's value to $699 billion, pushing it past Google parent Alphabet to reclaim the title of most valuable company in the world. Google's value at its latest share price is $573 billion.

4

Aetna and Humana drop merger plan

Aetna and Humana on Tuesday announced that they were scrapping their $34 billion merger agreement. The decision came weeks after a court blocked the deal, saying it would reduce competition in the health insurance market. "While we continue to believe that a combined company would create greater value for health care consumers through improved affordability and quality, the current environment makes it too challenging to continue pursuing the transaction," Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said. Aetna now will have to pay Humana a $1 billion merger termination fee.

5

Playboy brings back nudity

Playboy is bringing back nudity in its next issue, due for release at the end of the month, a year after the iconic men's magazine stopped featuring photos of naked women. The struggling magazine announced in October 2015 that it was dropping nudity to attract more advertisers and qualify for better newsstand placement. Cooper Hefner, son of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, said in a Twitter post on Monday that "the way in which the magazine portrayed nudity was dated, but removing it entirely was a mistake." He also said, "Nudity was never the problem because nudity isn't a problem. Today we're taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are."

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