Financial Review

Take 65

…..Senate unveils a health care bill. CBO score next week. Vote soon after. 4 GOP senators already oppose it. Those tapes were a bluff. Banks pass stress tests. LEI up. Mortgage rates down. Qatar wants to buy American. Sears Canada BK. Warren’s latest deal. Oracle shines through the cloud. Facebook on a mission.

Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 06-22-2017

DOW – 12 = 21,397
SPX – 1 = 2434
NAS + 2 = 6236
RUT + 5 = 1404
10 Y – .01 = 2.15%
OIL + .21 = 42.74
GOLD + 3.70 = 1251.00

The Senate health care bill was unveiled today. The 142-page bill was written entirely behind closed doors and today is the first time the public and most senators have seen the bill. The latest version of Trumpcare is officially titled as the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, which is a rewrite of the House of Representatives American Health Care Act, which is a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act. The bill would repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate, drastically cut back federal support of Medicaid, and eliminate Obamacare’s taxes on the wealthy, insurers and others.

 

The bill will have to undergo scrutiny to ensure that it meets the strict requirements on what can or can’t be included in a bill under the budget reconciliation process. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, will analyze and score the bill and present its findings early next week. The CBO analysis will shed light on how much money the bill would cost and how many people would be covered. Senate Republicans hope to see better headlines from this CBO report than the one that the House GOP legislation received. CBO said the House bill would result in 23 million fewer people insured in 2026 than under Obamacare.

 

Here are some of the key points that we know. The Senate bill would require insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions and charge everyone the same regardless of health history. But it would allow states to waive the federal mandate on what insurers must cover, known as the essential health benefits. This would allow insurers to offer less comprehensive policies, so those with pre-existing conditions may not have all of their treatments covered.

 

The bill would continue the enhanced Medicaid expansion funding from Obamacare until 2021 and then phase it out over three years. The Senate bill would keep the House plan to send a fixed amount of money to states each year based on enrollment or as a lump sum block grant. But it would shrink the program even more over time by pegging the annual growth rate of those funds to standard inflation, rather than the more generous medical inflation, starting in 2025. This would likely force states to cut enrollment, benefits or provider payments. Several independent analyses have concluded that this funding structure would lead to large-scale shortfalls in every state, which would need to be closed by reducing enrollment or benefits, and cutting capacity to respond to disasters and public-health crises. Those affected most would be poor children, people with mental-health issues, and disabled people.

 

The Senate bill would also largely maintain Obamacare’s premium subsidies structure, but tighten the eligibility criteria starting in 2020. Fewer middle class folks would get help because only those earning up to 350% of the poverty level would qualify, rather than the 400% threshold contained in Obamacare.

 

It also allows even less generous plans to stand as benchmarks for exchange and employer coverage, which could likewise contribute to disruptions and deductible increases. In recognition of the disruptions to the state-level exchanges through which individuals purchase coverage, the House bill set up a “Patient and State Stability Fund,” which would inject over $100 billion into state high-risk pools and reinsurance funds. The Senate largely replicates this approach with slightly less funding, although it does add an additional $2 billion fund for fighting the opioid crisis in 2018.

 

The bill would also aim to shore up the existing Obamacare market by allocating funds for the cost-sharing subsidies until 2019. This might placate insurers, who were upset by Trump’s refusal to commit to continue making these payments, leading many carriers to hike rates or drop out of the exchanges for 2018.

 

The draft bill proposes repealing the 3.8 percent net investment income tax on high earners retroactively to the start of 2017, not at some point in the future. The tax cut will be offset by reducing aid to the poor to cut costs. We’ll have to wait for the CBO score to see if the math works, and how many people would see higher premiums or see coverage eliminated. That could be followed by a vote on the bill as soon as next week. Democrats appear to have a solid bloc of opposition; if 3 Republicans oppose the bill, it will not pass. The bill could be changed over the next few days. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah said in a joint statement they’re “not ready to vote for this bill.” A number of other GOP senators are avoiding outright supporting the new health care bill, saying they need more time to read the fine print before taking a stand. The CBO score will be key – if it is not significantly better than the score of the House version, this bill could be DOA.

 

Hospital stocks traded sharply higher after the bill was released, adding to gains from earlier in the session. HCA Healthcare Inc rose 3.8 percent, while Tenet Healthcare Corp surged 8.4 percent. Health insurers also traded broadly higher, with large players Aetna and UnitedHealth Group each up more than 1 percent. Insurers that specialize in Medicaid also gained, with Centene up 3.4 percent and Molina Healthcare rising 2.6 percent.

 

About those tapes President Donald Trump suggested (or warned) that he (or someone) may have had of his one-on-one conversations with then–FBI Director James Comey: They don’t exist. Or, if they did, he didn’t make them. Trump took to Twitter today to say: “I have no idea… …whether there are “tapes” or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”

 

Thirty-four of the largest banks operating in the U.S. cleared a Federal Reserve stress test of their ability to withstand economic shocks. Every bank subject to the annual tests’ first phase exceeded minimum thresholds, though Morgan Stanley trailed the rest of Wall Street on a key measure of leverage — the second year it performed worse than peers on one of the test’s main metrics.

 

The Conference Board’s leading economic index climbed 0.3% in May and offered further proof the U.S. continues to grow at a steady clip, suggesting the economy is likely to remain on, or perhaps even moderately above, its long-term trend of about 2% growth for the remainder of the year.

 

Mortgage rates are keeping close pace with U.S. Treasury yields, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note is hovering around the lowest levels of the year, and the lowest since the November election. Mortgage rates fell to one of the lowest levels of the year in the most recent week, following a short-lived rebound. Freddie Mac said  the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.90% in the June 22 week. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.17%

 

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 241,000 last week.

 

Qatar Airways, the Gulf country’s state-owned airline, has expressed interest in buying as much as a 10 percent stake worth at least $808 million in American Airlines Group. The potential investment comes against the background of diplomatic and competitive turbulence for Qatar Airways, its home country and U.S. airlines. Operations at Qatar Airways were disrupted after four Arab nations cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar this month in the worst diplomatic crisis in the region in years. Separately, American, United Continental, and Delta have pressed the U.S. government to take action to curb U.S. flights by Qatar Airways and rival Gulf carrier’s Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways. The U.S. carriers charge that their Gulf rivals have received billions of dollars in unfair state subsidies. Qatar Airways said in a statement that it sees a “strong investment opportunity” in American and that it “intends to build a passive position in the company with no involvement in management, operations or governance.” American said its rules prohibit “anyone from acquiring 4.75 percent or more of the company’s outstanding stock without advance approval from the board.”

 

As expected, Sears Canada has filed for bankruptcy protection and 2,900 employees countrywide are losing their jobs.

 

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is extending a 1.5 billion credit facility to Home Capital Group, Canada’s largest nonbank lender. Berkshire also agreed through its Columbia Insurance unit to buy up to $300 million of Home Capital shares for a 38.4 percent stake, pending shareholder and regulatory approvals. The credit line carries an interest rate of at least 9 percent.

 

Reuters reports Staples is in advanced talks to be acquired by Sycamore Partners in a $6 billion deal.

 

After leading the stock market for months, the big name tech stocks hit pause to catch a breath. And that allowed an old name to sneak into rally mode. Oracle was late to the cloud revolution, allowing upstarts like Salesforce.com Inc. to find significant market share with software delivered over the internet, and has suffered while making an acquisition-fueled push into the space. But it looks like Oracle is figuring out the cloud. Late yesterday, they reported fiscal fourth quarter earnings, and today, shares topped $50, sending the market cap over $200 billion. Oracle posted full-year revenue growth of 1.8% and profit growth of 4.9%, and raised guidance.

 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revised the world’s largest online social network’s mission statement. The previous mission was “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Facebook’s new mission is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

 

 

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