Business briefing

The daily business briefing: September 20, 2017

Stocks hover ahead of word from Fed, Walgreens says regulators cleared it to buy 1,932 Rite Aid stores, and more

1

Stocks flat ahead of Fed statement

U.S. stock futures were flat early and global markets were little changed ahead of the close of the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting on Wednesday. The U.S. central bank's policy makers are expected to announce plans to begin reducing the Fed's $4.5 trillion bond portfolio, which it piled up as part of its efforts to boost the economy. Investors will be looking for clues in the Fed statement regarding its plans for raising interest rates. The Fed left its benchmark rate at a record low for seven years after the 2008 financial crisis. The Fed started raising rates again in December 2015. After four hikes, policy makers have held off on a fifth, despite strong job gains as inflation edged down from their two-percent target.

2

Walgreens says regulators cleared it to buy 1,932 Rite Aid stores

Walgreens Boots Alliance said Tuesday that it had received the Federal Trade Commission's permission to buy 1,932 Rite Aid stores and three distribution centers in a deal worth $4.4 billion. Walgreens originally wanted to buy all of Rite Aid in a deal worth $17.2 billion, including debt, but the FTC resisted and forced the two drug store chains to revise their merger plans several times since it was originally proposed in 2015. The revised deal leaves the nation's three largest drug-store chains as separate entities, with Walgreens edging out CVS at No. 1.

3

Trump administration to ease rules on overseas gun sales

The Trump administration is planning to change oversight procedures to make it easier for gun makers to sell ammunition and small arms — such as assault rifles and ammunition — overseas, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing senior U.S. officials. International non-military firearm sales currently are overseen by the State Department, which tightly restricts weapons deals due to security concerns. President Trump's aides are working on a plan to shift the responsibility to the Commerce Department, which is focused on facilitating trade and would therefore be expected to encourage increased sales. "There will be more leeway to do arms sales," one senior administration official said. "You could really turn the spigot on if you do it the right way."

4

Bipartisan governors' group comes out against GOP health-care plan

The new, last-ditch push by Senate Republicans to replace ObamaCare hit headwinds on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of 10 governors came out in opposition to it. GOP senators and the White House are rushing to muster the 50 votes they need to pass the bill, which would replace ObamaCare's insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion with block grants to states, before a measure preventing Democrats from blocking it with a filibuster expires at the end of the month. With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) a firm no and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) considered likely to oppose it, too, the GOP, which has a 52-48 majority, can't afford to lose another vote.

5

Senate GOP agrees to deficit-fueled plan for $1.5 trillion tax cut

Senate Republicans agreed Tuesday to move toward passing a budget that would add to the federal deficit but clear the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over a decade. Republicans say such a huge tax cut would stimulate so much economic growth it would offset the addition to the deficit. The budget still faces hurdles. If it is approved by the full Senate, it would still have to be aligned with a House version voted out of committee earlier this year, and House Republicans might object to veering away from the party's calls for fiscal discipline by adding to the deficit.

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