In the news
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will be among the Republicans who will attend a three-day policy retreat during which the lawmakers will work on how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Reuters reported. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan reportedly wants the GOP to enact at least two major pieces of domestic legislation before the Congress' August recess, and it appears that the healthcare law repeal and tax reform are top priorities.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., nominee for secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, did not provide details on how Trump plans to replace former President Barack Obama's healthcare law, but he told the Senate Finance Committee that the new administration will work on providing affordable and accessible health insurance to Americans, The Associated Press reported. Price told the panel that people with pre-existing conditions should have access to health coverage, Reuters noted.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Price put the responsibility of coming up with a replacement on the U.S. Congress, saying that he would implement whatever the Senate and House passes.
Rating agency A.M. Best said health insurers will face a major risk if the administration repeals the premium and cost-sharing subsidies of the healthcare law. The removal of federal exchanges and Small Business Health Options Program could impact health insurers' marketing, and the rollback of Medicaid expansion could lead to membership declines at health carriers participating in Medicaid managed care.
In deal-related news, the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System has agreed to contribute $1 billion in financing toward Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.'s pending acquisition of Allied World Assurance Co. Holdings AG, Bloomberg News reported, citing "people familiar with the matter."
One day after a court ruled against the proposed merger between Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc., top executives of the two health insurers announced that they would consider all available options for the proposed deal. An Aetna spokesman said earlier that the insurer was weighing an appeal, but Leerink Partners analyst Ana Gupte does not believe that such move would work under the new administration, Reuters reported. A.M. Best said the financial strength ratings, long-term issuer credit ratings and long- and short-term issue credit ratings of both Aetna and Humana remain unchanged after the decision.
A special meeting of Genworth Financial Inc. shareholders regarding the insurer's pending sale to China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co. Ltd. will be held March 7. The Genworth board recommends that Genworth shareholders approve the proposal. The announcement follows the filing of a shareholder complaint that seeks to block the transaction.
Current and former insurance commissioners and a state legislator are among the candidates to fill key regulatory positions, including the directorship of a potentially re-imagined Federal Insurance Office, according to industry and government sources, S&P Global Market Intelligence reported.
The Trump administration notified government agencies to stop any work on new rulemaking, but ambiguity in the memo's language is leaving some industry observers confused over whether independent financial regulators including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Securities and Exchange Commission should also comply.
Travelers Cos. Inc. is taking action to address the underwriting profitability and growth of an agency automobile business that produced its highest combined ratio for a quarter and a calendar year since its formative 2004 merger nearly 13 years ago, S&P Global Market Intelligence reported.
The storms that recently hit southwest Georgia caused $100 million in damages, WXIA reported, citing Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.
In executive moves, HRG Group Inc. named George Nicholson senior vice president, CFO and chief accounting officer.
Alfredo Castelo has succeeded Jaime Tamayo as president and CEO of MAPFRE USA Corp. Inc. and the MAPFRE North America region.
Aon Plc's group president and the chairman and CEO of Aon Risk Solutions, Steve McGill, has stepped down, Artemis reported, citing a company memo.
Former CNO Financial Group Inc. Chief Business Officer Scott Perry heads to AmeriLife to serve as CEO.
Torchmark Corp. plans to seek cancellation of its common stock listing on the London Stock Exchange.
Novartis mulls options for eyecare unit; J&J boss talks R&D tax incentives: During an earnings call this morning, Novartis AG's CEO Joseph Jimenez said the company is considering all options for its Alcon eye-care division, including keeping the business, after sales stopped declining in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Financial news in other parts of the world
Asia-Pacific: China urged to join Trans-Pacific Partnership; AMP shutters venture capital biz
Middle East & Africa: Kenyan banks face new headache; Aramco seeks IPO advisers
Europe: Santander posts large profit; Generali surprised by Intesa; Brexit ruling
Latin America: Banco Macro seen as favorite in Patagonia race; Brazil to simplify reserve rules
The day ahead
Progressive Corp. and RLI Corp. are expected to report their earnings today.
Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.
In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.43% to 23,049.12. The Nikkei 225 rose 1.43% to 19,057.50.
In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 climbed 0.26% to 7,168.66, and the Euronext 100 was up 0.86% to 939.43.
On the macro front
The FHFA house price index and the EIA petroleum status report are due out today.