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Prudential Financial probe to go multistate; insured losses hit $49B in 2016

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Prudential Financial probe to go multistate; insured losses hit $49B in 2016

In the news

The issue involving allegedly fraudulent sales of Prudential Financial Inc.'s low-cost life insurance policies by Wells Fargo & Co. branches is poised to become a larger, multistate insurance regulatory investigation.

First New Jersey, Prudential's domiciliary lead regulator, and then California, where the retail bank is headquartered, separately confirmed their own investigations. Now, the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance has informed other states and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners of its investigation, and some states have already joined the effort.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., are also leading a Congressional inquiry into the matter.

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Total economic losses from natural and manmade disasters in 2016 are expected to hit $158 billion, with insured losses estimated to be around $49 billion, according to Swiss Re Ltd.'s preliminary sigma estimates. The figures surpassed the $94 billion in total economic losses and $37 billion in insured losses seen in 2015. Swiss Re said many catastrophic events occurred in areas with low insurance coverage resulting in the gap between the economic losses and insured losses.

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Humana Inc. CEO Bruce Broussard gushed over Aetna Inc. CEO Mark Bertolini and highlighted the "complementary capabilities" of the two insurers as they start defending their pending merger against the U.S. Justice Department's bid to block it, Bloomberg News reported. During the trial, Broussard said he and Bertolini "almost finished each other's sentences" and that both shared the "passion" of improving the industry. The relationship contrasted that of between Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp., which have been accusing each other of breach of merger agreement even as they try to fight the Justice Department's effort to stop their pending tie-up, according to the report.

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President Barack Obama's administration touted the surge of consumers who are signing up for coverage in the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace as the end of open enrollment for 2017 approaches, even as Republicans vow to dismantle the healthcare law. From Nov. 1 to Dec. 10, about 4.0 million people picked plans using HealthCare.gov, including about 1.1 million of new consumers and about 2.9 million renewing their coverage.

Cigna President and CEO David Cordani said lawmakers who are planning to change the ACA should ensure continuity for consumers who gained coverage under the healthcare law, the Houston Chronicle reported. He said commitments made to ACA consumers throughout fiscal year 2017 must be satisfied. He said Cigna has been in touch with lawmakers about future plans for the healthcare law, but he declined to provide further details about the meetings and what parts of the healthcare law he wants to be kept.

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In deal news, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. acquired The MW Bagnall Co. based in Phoenix.

Cross Insurance acquired Colt Insurance, a Pittsfield, Mass.-based insurance agency.

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Centene Corp. extended Chairman, President and CEO Michael Neidorff's employment agreement to 2020.

Tom Rogers joined Farmers Group Inc. as chief investment officer.

Jeffrey Cook has been appointed the CEO of Aetna's health plan joint venture with Texas Health Resources.

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Silicon Valley, Calif.-based smart home insurance provider Hippo raised $14 million in series A funding, with venture capital firm Horizons Ventures leading the round. RPM Ventures, Propel Venture Partners, GGV Capital and Pipeline Capital and certain financial technology investors and entrepreneurs also joined the fundraising.

Featured news

Lonza in $5.5B deal to buy Capsugel; US Senate cracks down on Pfizer pricing: Lonza will acquire Capsugel from KKR for $5.5 billion; and a Senate committee asked Pfizer to explain in detail the price increases of naloxone, a generic drug used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

Financial news in other parts of the world

Asia-Pacific: China Minsheng Banking shareholder boosts stake; India's LIC gets new chairman

Middle East & Africa: Central banks respond to Fed hike; Gabon restructures 3 banks

Europe: Banks' MREL funding need estimates cut; more calls for transitional Brexit deal

Latin America: Brazil credit bureau approval under fire; Argentina takes Mercosur presidency

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a mixed opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng fell 1.77% to 22,059.40, and the Nikkei 225 was up 0.10% to 19,273.79.

In Europe as of midday, the FTSE 100 was up 0.24% to 6,965.82, and the Euronext 100 rose 0.52% to 920.65.

On the macro front

The consumer price index, the jobless claims report, the Empire State manufacturing survey, the PMI manufacturing index flash, the housing market index, the EIA natural gas report, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply report are due out today.