The daily business briefing: March 9, 2018
Cigna agrees to buy Express Scripts in latest health-care deal, Trump signs tariffs but exempts key allies, and more
Cigna to buy Express Scripts in $52 billion deal
Health insurer Cigna announced Thursday that it will buy Express Scripts, the biggest pharmacy benefit manger in the U.S. The $52 billion deal came following CVS Health Corp.'s $69 billion bid to buy health insurer Aetna. The deals were the latest in a series of mergers in the health-care industry as insurers and providers team up to contain costs and boost profits. Cigna and rivals are using acquisitions to get more directly involved in patient care. "They want to be the consumer's partner in managing their health through data and services that help them take charge of their own health," said health economist Paul Keckley.
Trump signs steel, aluminum tariffs but exempts key allies
President Trump on Thursday signed a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, saying the measures were necessary to protect U.S. companies and workers from unfair competition. Trump defied opposition from fellow Republicans and threats of a trade war from allies, although Trump exempted Canada and Mexico, pending progress on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump also suggested Australia might be able to win exclusion. The tariffs will take effect in 15 days, and Trump said other countries with a "security relationship" to the U.S. could negotiate "alternative ways" to make sure their trade relationship with the U.S. is fair. Stocks rose after the announcement, as the flexible terms of the tariffs eased fears of a trade war.
U.S. adds 313,000 jobs in February, biggest gain since mid-2016
U.S. employers added 313,000 non-farm jobs in February, exceeding expectations and marking the biggest gain since mid-2016. Economists polled by MarketWatch had predicted an increase of 222,000 jobs. January's gains were adjusted up to 239,000 from 200,000. Unemployment remained at 4.1 percent, and hourly pay rose by 4 cents to $26.75. The 12-month wage gain fell from 2.8 percent in January to 2.6 percent in February. The slowdown in wage growth pointed to a gradual increase in inflation, suggesting little reason to adjust expectations that the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates at its next two-day policy meeting, which starts March 20.
Toymaker shares drop on talk of Toys 'R' Us shutdown
Shares of toymakers Mattel and Hasbro fell by 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively, on Thursday after reports that Toys "R" Us is preparing to liquidate its bankrupt U.S. operations. The situation is still developing, but people familiar with the matter said Toys "R" Us had failed to find a buyer or reach a deal with lenders on restructuring its debt, both of which have increased the likelihood of a shutdown. The struggling retailer's U.S. division filed for bankruptcy protection in September, and obtained a $3.1 billion loan to keep stores around while it tried to trim down and negotiate a sustainable debt. Toys "R" Us declined to comment on the latest reports.
11 nations sign Trans-Pacific trade pact, without the U.S.
A group of 11 nations — including U.S. allies like Canada, Japan, and Australia — signed a broad free-trade deal on Thursday in Chile. The agreement brings together nations representing 500 million people around the Pacific. The U.S. started the negotiations during the Obama era to counter China's growing influence, but President Trump last year withdrew the U.S. from the deal, then known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The signing came on the day Trump officially imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. Chile's foreign minister, Heraldo Munoz, said the pact, now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, sends a strong message "against protectionist pressures, in favor of a world open to trade, without unilateral sanctions and without the threat of trade wars."