Nightly Business Report – March 27, 2019

ANNOUNCER:  This is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT with Sue Herera and Bill 



Centene (NYSE:CNC) is buying WellCare for more than $17 billion, but the 

acquisition comes just as Washington readies itself for another policy 



are falling fast, and that may not change for a while.  

GRIFFETH:  Switching sides.  McDonald`s (NYSE:MCD) will no longer fight 

minimum wage increases, putting one of the country`s largest employers on 

the other side of a controversial issue.  

Those stories and much more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for 

Wednesday, March the 27th.  

HERERA:  Good evening, everyone, and welcome.  

Health care deal-making is, well, pretty healthy.  Insurer Centene 

(NYSE:CNC) has agreed to buy managed care provider WellCare, something we 

told you was possible last night.  That deal adds to the flurry of the get-

togethers that we`ve seen this year.  In fact health industry mergers 

globally have had their biggest first quarter in 12 years.  

Shares of the companies moved in opposite directions.  WellCare was up 12 

percent.  Centene (NYSE:CNC) fell nearly 5 percent.  

It is important to note that both Centene (NYSE:CNC) and WellCare have a 

number of things in common, including significant business around 

government health programs.  And that could prove to be either a risk or a 


Bertha Coombs has the details.  



has grown its Medicaid business tenfold over the last decade in part 

through regional acquisitions.  $17.3 billion deal to buy its Medicaid 

rival WellCare would be its biggest transaction yet.  

MICHAEL NEIDORFF, CENTENE CEO:  These are two good companies in my opinion.  

You`re putting them together.  They`re high growth industries.  

They have complementary products that work well together.  We`ve had the 

objective to build our Medicare product.  They have a strong Medicare 

product.  We have a technology platform they need for their work.  

COOMBS:  The combined company would become the nation`s fourth largest 

health insurer, cementing Centene`s leadership in Medicaid, safety net 

programs and the Affordable Care Act exchange market, and it would quickly 

add scale in Medicare.  The combined company would have a million Medicare 

Advantage members and nearly 4 million seniors and Medicare part D drug 

plans across all 50 states.  

What concerns some investors about the deal, Centene (NYSE:CNC) is 

projecting slower earnings growth in the first year.  S&P credit analysts 

aren`t worried about that.  

DEEP BANERJEE, S&P GLOBAL RATINGS:  With a deal this size, there`s always 

integration risk.  So we think integration risk in this case is a little 

bit muted than some of the other larger deals that we have looked at.  Now, 

regulatory, that`s a very different question.  

COOMBS:  Antitrust regulators may raise concerns about overlap in Centene 

(NYSE:CNC) and WellCare`s Medicaid businesses in Georgia, Missouri and 

Nebraska.  Their combined market share tops 60 percent in those states.  

MATT BORSCH, BMO CAPITAL MARKETS:  When we look at the possibility that 

both Georgia and Missouri would require divestitures to meet approval, that 

would be something a little bit above 15 percent of the combined Medicaid 

membership.  That`s a lot.  But I think that that`s manageable.  That may 

not be necessary.  

COOMBS:  Investors have already seen risks in Centene`s exposure to the 

Affordable Care Act, with the Trump administration now asking the federal 

courts to overturn the law in a case that`s under appeal.  Centene`s CEO 

thinks the Supreme Court will ultimately uphold the law.  

NEIDORFF:  I`ve always found when there`s a certain amount of uncertainty, 

in a challenging environment, that`s the time to act.  

COOMBS:  If approved, Centene (NYSE:CNC) expects to close the deal late 

next year.  



GRIFFETH:  Chris Meekins joins us right now to talk about this deal and, 

boy, the up in the air policy landscape in Washington when it comes to 

managed care and health insurers.  

He is the health care policy analyst at Raymond James.  

Chris, thanks for joining us tonight.  


having me.  

GRIFFETH:  So, what do you think, does this deal make sense or will we know 

down the road after things have been resolved, if they can be resolved any 

time soon on policy in Washington?  

MEEKINS:  I think hindsight is always 20/20.  But looking at the deal 

itself today when I looked over the information provided I think it makes a 

lot of sense.  Centene (NYSE:CNC) had a decision, do they want to be 

acquired or do acquiring?  And they decided to go out and pick up WellCare, 

which has a lot of complimentary businesses.  There`s a little overlap in a 

few states but with some divestitures, they should work their way out.  

And when you look at the managed care names, which so far year to date are 

basically flat to down 1 percent as a whole, you know, it`s a good time to 

jump on while these names are a little cheaper than they were at other 


HERERA:  I was going to ask you about that, do you anticipate seeing more 

deals, even with the regulatory uncertainty in Washington?  

MEEKINS:  Yes, I think you`re going to probably see some additional deals.  

When I look at who could be next on the acquisition list, I look at names 

like Molina, I look at names like Magellan Health, I look at even Humana 

(NYSE:HUM), which has been talks about mergers in the past but hasn`t 

really found the right fit so far.  

So, I think there`s a lot of opportunity here, because as you look going 

forward, you hear a lot of stuff in D.C. about Medicare-for-All and you 

hear a lot of stuff about single payer.  But one great example is when 

House Democrats had an opportunity this week to introduce a new health care 

bill as their signature thing in the new Congress, what they did is they 

went after building on the Affordable Care Act and making it better.  They 

didn`t look at moving forward completely up ending the entire Medicaid and 

commercial markets.  

GRIFFETH:  One thing that everybody agrees on, though, is costs need to 

come down.  That would seem to put a cap on some of the growth 

opportunities for some of these insurers.  Do you agree?  Is that a problem 

for them?  

MEEKINS:  I mean, there`s no question that as they look at ways to regulate 

costs, there are opportunities.  Right now, there`s actually kind of a 

reverse incentive because insurers are only able to keep the medical loss 

ratio of 85 percent.  They can only keep basically 15 percent for them, 

they don`t really have an incentive to drive costs even greater.  

With new advances in technologies, what we`re seeing is there`s greater 

opportunities for value-based care and finding ways to make sure those that 

are the highest drivers of cost, make sure they take their medication, make 

sure they get the help that they need before they had episodes.  So, I 

think you`ve seen a lot of great leadership like UnitedHealth and Optum 

that are leading the way.  And I think as you get to scale with some of 

these companies, we`re only going to see those areas grow.  

GRIFFETH:  Well, clearly, this issue is back on the agenda in Washington.  

So, we`ll see what happens this year.  

Chris Meekins with Raymond James, again, thanks for joining us tonight.  

MEEKINS:  Thanks so much.  

HERERA:  On Wall Street, stocks fell as the yield on the 10-year Treasury 

hit its lowest level since 2017.  Concerns about the health of the global 

economy fueled the decline in yields and that weighed down stocks.  The Dow 

Jones Industrial Average was down 32 points to 25,625, the Nasdaq fell 48 

and the S&P 500 was off 13.  

GRIFFETH:  Meanwhile, our trade deficit with the rest of the world narrowed 

sharply in January.  The Commerce Department said this morning the deficit 

in trade and services shrank by 15 percent to $51 billion.  That`s smaller 

than the $57 billion that was forecast by economists.  In fact, the smaller 

deficit was driven by a decline in imports from China and other countries 

as well.  

HERERA:  Even as economists grow concerned about the health of the economy, 

it`s also important to know what Americans think, because they`re the ones 

driving a lot of the activity.  And that`s where CNBC`s All America Survey 

comes in.  

Here`s Steve Liesman.  



and day out worry about a coming recession, that doesn`t seem to be the 

case for the American public.  The CNBC All America Economic Survey of 800 

Americans nationwide finds optimism on the economy.  It`s down a bit from 

the lofty levels of last year, but half of all Americans think the economy 

is in good or excellent shape.  

Two-thirds see the economy either improving or staying the same in the year 


KEVIN MAHN, HENNION & WALSH:  Consumer confidence leads to consumer 

spending.  As we know consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of GDP 

growth.  Is it below peak?  It is.  But that supports the theme of slowing 

but growing.  We expect the economy to continue to grow.  Not at the levels 

we saw last year but certainly continue to grow.  

LIESMAN:  Americans outlook for growth in their wages and their home prices 

are down from last year, but 40 percent still expect bigger paychecks and 

42 percent still believe their homes will rise in price.  Both are on par 

with the averages for the past several years.  

The outlook for stocks also down from the levels hit last year near the 

market peak, but it`s bounced back from the lower levels hit amid the 

December sell-off.  

JJ KINAHAN, TD AMERITRADE:  February, through to the beginning of the fall, 

economic confidence was fairly high.  When we saw our IMX, we saw people 

that measures engagement with the market, people become more engaged at 

that time.  Starting in October and Wilfred and I talk about this a lot, 

October, November, December, our clients actually drew down their 

engagement with the market in January.  

LIESMAN:  Forty-one percent say it`s a good time to invest in stocks, up 

three points from the last survey, and 30 percent say it`s a bad time, down 

six points.  



GRIFFETH:  And as interest rates fall, so do mortgage rates.  And borrowers 

and buyers alike are reacting to this new normal.  

Diana Olick has more from Washington.  



continue to fall today edging very close to the 3 percent range on the 30-

year fixed.  “Mortgage News Daily” reporting an average 4.03 percent for 

loans with 20 percent down payment.  So some lenders are already in the 3s.  

And today, we got the response to last week`s drop in rates.  Mortgage 

applications jumped more than 9 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers 


Refinances took the lead, jumping 12 percent for the week.  For the last 

two years, refi volume just plunged but clearly we`re seeing a turn-around, 

all because rates have been dropping.  You can see the sharp plunge after 

the fed`s announcement last Wednesday that it would not raise rates any 

more this year.  Mortgage applications to buy a home also rose 6 percent 

for the week, although just 4 percent higher than a year ago.  

And on that note, once again the average loan size hit a new record.  This 

is likely because when rates drop, people with bigger mortgages benefit 

more from a refinance.  On the buy side, lower rates help people afford 

more home.  

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Diana Olick in Washington.  


HERERA:  One of the most dramatic stories today took place across the 

Atlantic, in the United Kingdom, where Prime Minister Theresa May said she 

will resign if parliament passes her Brexit deal.  The move is an attempt 

to push members of parliament to approve a plan.  

Willem Marx is covering the story for us tonight from London.  

Willem, what happened today?  And perhaps more importantly, what happens 



meant to be about parliament deciding on which shade of Brexit it could 

find a majority for.  We`re just a few moments away from getting the 

results of these so-called indicative votes where they indicate their 

preferences in a nonbinding way.  

Before that voting kicked off, Theresa May met with members of her 

conservative party and under a huge amount of pressure promised that she 

should not be the person that would lead the U.K. through future 

negotiations on trade with the European Union, essentially implying that 

she would not be prime minister in two months time.  

May 22nd, as of tonight, is one of two official legally binding Brexit 

dates.  The other one is April the 12th.  If she can get her deal through, 

it will be that later date in May.  If she can`t, as of right now, the 

default is that the U.K. will leave the European Union on April 12th.  

What happens now?  Her government will probably try to bring her deal to a 

vote once again for the third time.  It was defeated by 149 votes in the 

parliament around 650 last time.  She still has a huge amount of work to 


But by making this promise, by assuring MPs that she would be stepping down 

at some point in the not too distant future, she already seems to be 

getting some members of her party back on her side.  But one caveat, the 

small Northern Irish party, the Democratic Unionist Party, that helps prop 

up her government, they have said tonight they will not back her deal 

regardless of this offer for her resignation.  

GRIFFETH:  But irony or not, Boris Johnson of all people said that he would 

vote for it tonight.  

But who do you think, assuming she does then end up stepping down, who do 

you think leads the charge in the negotiations in the future?  Any names 

coming to surface yet?  

MARX:  Well, there`s a few.  One of them would be her former Brexit 

secretary, Dominic Raab who`s been very quiet the last 24 hours.  He`s not 

one of the big high-profile figures in the Conservative Party.  He said 

they will now support this deal.  

That allows him to win support from the hard line core membership of the 

conservative party, which is not necessarily representative of the rest of 

the U.K., let alone the conservative parliamentary party behind me.  He is 

the one obvious figure.  Michael Gove, one of her ministers, he`s also been 

quite loyal to Theresa May in recent months but has a reputation as an 

intelligent politician and comes up with intelligent policies.  

So there are a few men and women in the mix, but those are two that come to 

mind immediately.  

HERERA:  Well, we will be watching it closely.  Willem, thank you so much.  

Willem Marx in London.  

GRIFFETH:  Time to look at some of today`s “Upgrades and Downgrades”.  

Coverage of Boeing (NYSE:BA) was resumed with a buy rating at Citi with the 

analyst there basing his call on a multi-month grounding of the 737 MAX 

aircraft with what he anticipates will be a manageable fix.  The price 

target now $450.  That stock was up 1 percent today to $374.21.  

Ralph Lauren was upgraded to outperform from market perform at Wells Fargo 

(NYSE:WFC).  The analyst cited the potential for growth to accelerate and 

he called Ralph Lauren a rare standout.  Price target, $150.  Shares were 

up 2.5 percent to $125.34.  

HERERA:  On Semiconductor was upgraded from buy to neutral at Goldman Sachs 

(NYSE:GS).  The analyst cites opportunities for growth in areas like 5G, 

electric vehicles and the cloud.  The price target is $26.  The shares fell 

2 percent to $20.56.  

Sketchers was upgraded to positive from neutral at Susquehanna.  The 

analyst cites channel checks that point to increased business momentum.  

The price target is $37.  The stock rose more than 3 percent to $32.58.  

GRIFFETH:  Still ahead: Boeing`s next move.  



outlines changes it plans for the grounded 737 MAX.  How long until the 

planes get back in the air?  

I`m Phil LeBeau in Seattle, Washington.  That story coming up on NIGHTLY 




GRIFFETH:  Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) today trimmed its first quarter 

revenue growth forecast.  The company cited the grounding of its fleet of 

Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737 MAX planes.  Southwest now expects revenue per 

available seat mile, which is a key metric, to grow between 2 percent and 3 

percent.  It had been expected to grow by 4 percent.  But the softer 

outlook did not impact the stock today.  It was up 2 percent in today`s 


HERERA:  The acting head of the FAA was on Capitol Hill answering questions 

about its oversight of Boeing (NYSE:BA).  The certification process came 

into focus following the crash of those two Boeing (NYSE:BA) commercial 

jets in five months.  

Dan Elwell said the agency plans to revamp the oversight process but that 

it would need an additional 10,000 employees and nearly $2 billion if it 

were to assume all responsibilities for aircraft certification.  

GRIFFETH:  Meantime, Boeing (NYSE:BA) believes it now has the fixes to 

resolve those issues that forced regulators to ground its 737 MAX jets.  

It`s been two weeks now since the FAA joined other aviation agencies around 

the world in shutting down the popular plane following those two deadly 


Phil LeBeau is in Seattle with Boeing (NYSE:BA) on their push to get the 

MAX flying again.  


LEBEAU:  Is the 737 MAX one step closer to taking off again?  Boeing 

(NYSE:BA) thinks so.  Today, Boeing`s vice president briefed reporters on 

changes being made to the MAX and increased training for 737 pilots.  

MIKE SINNETT, BOEING VICE PRESIDENT:  We`re working with customers and 

regulators around the world to restore faith in our industry, and also to 

reaffirm our commitment to safety and to earning the trust of the flying 


LEBEAU:  After analyzing what may have caused the crash of the 737 MAX last 

October, Boeing (NYSE:BA) is limiting how often the flight`s automated 

controls can influence the Max`s flight path.  It`s also updating the 

cockpit display so pilots are alerted when the system kicks in.  A 

criticism Boeing (NYSE:BA) has faced since the crash of a Max in Ethiopia 

earlier this month.  Will these changes ease the pressure Boeing (NYSE:BA) 

is facing?  

SCOTT HAMILTON, LEEHAM COMPANY:  It`s not going to alleviate the pressure.  

It`s going to explain what happened and how they came to the processes and 

decisions they came to.  But until the airplane is back in service and 

proven to be safe, if you will, pressure will remain on Boeing (NYSE:BA) 

for quite a while yet.  

LEBEAU:  The MAX is not flying until Boeing (NYSE:BA) clears several 

hurdles, including having the FAA certify the software update and then 

lifting the grounding.  That will clear the MAX to fly in the U.S.  But 

foreign governments will still need to approve the fix.  

SINNETT:  The 737 is a safe airplane.  The 737 family is a safe airplane 

family.  And the 737 MAX builds on that tremendous history of safety that 

we`ve seen for the last almost 50 years.  

LEBEAU:  Boeing (NYSE:BA) believes the changes it has outlined can be 

implemented in a matter of days.  But until the FAA and regulators around 

the world approve the safety of the 737 MAX, these planes remain grounded 

and some believe that could last another 6 to 12 weeks.  

Phil LeBeau, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Seattle, Washington.  


HERERA:  Lennar (NYSE:LEN) builds a solid foundation.  That`s where we 

begin tonight`s “Market Focus”.

The home builder reported a 24 percent increase in orders and a 30 percent 

rise in deliveries, signaling improved demand for new homes.  The company 

said falling mortgage rates will be a catalyst for the industry, and that 

helped offset an earnings and revenue shortfall in the most recent quarter.  

The stock rose nearly 4 percent to $51.67.  

Investors had their first chance to react to results from Shoe Carnival 

(NASDAQ:SCVL) (NYSE:CCL) and they liked what they saw.  The retailer 

reported better-than-expected earnings and same-store sales driven by 

demand for women`s boots.  The stock soared 22 percent to $37.30.  

GRIFFETH:  Meanwhile, apparel maker PVH is forecasting full-year profit 

above estimates.  PVH cited strong demand for its Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin 

Klein brands.  The company also reported better-than-expected profit and 

sales for this most recent quarter.  That sent the stock higher in initial 

after-hours trading.  It closed the regular session today up a fraction to 


And Lululemon had a strong holiday quarter.  The athleisure clothing chain 

reported a profit that blew past analysts` estimates.  Company cited strong 

demand for its ready to wear.  Shares rose in initial after-hours trading.  

They gained 2 percent during the regular session to $146.80.  

HERERA:  Coming up, McDonald`s (NYSE:MCD) just made a decision that could 

have a big impact on wages across the country.


HERERA:  A big shift happened today in the debate over minimum wage.  

McDonald`s (NYSE:MCD) had been a vocal opponent of the push to raise it, 

but now, the large employer is having second thoughts.  

Kate Rogers (NYSE:ROG) has more.  



changing course on minimum wage.  The fast food giant sending a letter to 

the National Restaurant Association Tuesday saying it would no longer lobby 

in support of efforts to oppose or defeat minimum wage increases.  

The letter said in part: The conversation about wages is an important one.  

It`s one we wish to advance, not impede.  Ultimately, progress must come 

from all corners of our society, and McDonald`s corporation is committed to 

playing a meaningful role in the spaces we occupy.  

The letter went on to say McDonald`s (NYSE:MCD) workers at its company-

owned locations have an average starting wage of more than $10 an hour.  

And while it doesn`t control pay at franchise locations, McDonald`s 

(NYSE:MCD) believes it is likely similar.  

The company declined to comment beyond the letter to CNBC.  McDonald`s 

(NYSE:MCD) statement comes as pressure builds to hike the federal minimum 

wage which stands at $7.25 an hour and has not been raised since 2009.  

Congressional Democrats have renewed a push to increase it to $15 an hour 

by year 2024 with the Raise the Wage Act, which the National Restaurant 

Association opposes in its current state.  

The largest food service trade group in the world said in part: Our members 

are as diverse as the communities they serve, and the economies of every 

region are different.  Advocates say McDonald`s` move is a start but not 



definitely a welcome statement but it`s really a reflection of the 

mainstream consensus now.  You know, 19 states are raising their minimum 

wage this year.  Since 2012, 22 million workers have received raises.  Lots 

of companies are adopting 15 as their baseline.  It`s really where most of 

the country is at right now.  You know, it`d be notable if they adopt 15.  

ROGERS:  Nonetheless, efforts to hike pay for workers may have a new and 

unexpected boost.



GRIFFETH:  So, what kind of impact will McDonald`s big shift on minimum 

wages have on wages around the country?  

Joining us right now to talk about it is Mark Hamrick.  He`s senior 

economics analyst at

Mark, good to see you.  Thanks for joining us tonight.


GRIFFETH:  So, OK, Walmart, Target (NYSE:TGT), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), now 

McDonald`s (NYSE:MCD).  They have come out in favor of a $15 federal 

minimum wage.  Is that enough to make this become closer to a reality or 

not, do you think?  

HAMRICK:  Bill, first of all, I`m a little more cautious about what 

McDonald`s (NYSE:MCD) either said or did not say.  It seemed to me that 

what they really did signal was they didn`t want to be seen as opposing a 

federal minimum wage increase.  I didn`t hear them say that they`re going 

to raise their own minimum wages to $15 an hour.  So, let`s stand back from 

that just a little bit.  

As the reporter package indicated, now there are only a minority of states 

across the country which are essentially tethered to that low federal 

minimum wage.  States and localities have moved ahead of the federal 


And the other political reality is simply because House Democrats want this 

to happen doesn`t mean that the White House and the Senate will move along.  

So, I think this is a talking point.  I think it`s something that does 

indeed engage McDonald`s (NYSE:MCD) in an important conversation.  It`s a 

good PR move as well.  

HERERA:  On that note, it seems as though you don`t think they did this 

through the goodness of their heart but because they would be feeling 

social pressure, maybe from some of their customers.  They don`t want to be 

left out, rather than putting both feet in.  

HAMRICK:  Absolutely.  There has been a vocal political pressure for 

McDonald`s (NYSE:MCD) to essentially stop opposing this.  And the other 

part is we think about some of the more dynamic players in this space that 

are doing the right things in the eyes of the all-important, for example, 

millennial market.  And so, part of that is being what people might view as 

being a good global citizen and also helping their own workers to attain a 

more workable wage that can get them above that $10 an hour level that they 

referenced in their letter.  

GRIFFETH:  But let`s face it, just this week, McDonald`s (NYSE:MCD) made 

the largest acquisition in the last 20 years buying this technology company 

that`s going to produce a more high-tech drive-through line there.  So, I`m 

wondering if their cost structure goes down because of technology, if they 

feel maybe they could afford more wages at some point because they`ll be 

hiring fewer workers maybe?  

HAMRICK:  Well, I think that remains to be seen, Bill.  Obviously, there is 

going to be a dance that never ends between the technology component of 

this and the involvement of human workers in those stores.  It may be, as 

is often the case, they simply move people from one task to another.  

I don`t know about you, Bill, but, you know, I still go to the grocery 

store.  I`d prefer to work with a cashier than go to that automated station 

that never seems to work.  

GRIFFETH:  What`s where you and I differ, Mark.  I do like the automated 


Thanks for joining us tonight.  

HAMRICK:  Great to be with you.  

GRIFFETH:  Mark Hamrick with

HERERA:  An update to our Brexit story tonight.  The results of those 

parliamentary votes are in.  And the results show that there is no clear 

majority for any Brexit option.  

GRIFFETH:  It`s not over yet.  

HERERA:  No.  

GRIFFETH:  But here`s the final numbers from Wall Street today.  The Dow 

was down 32 points, Nasdaq fell by 48, the S&P was down by 13.  

HERERA:  Just the story that keeps on giving.  

GRIFFETH:  Yes, it is.  

HERERA:  All right.  That`s NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight.  I`m Sue 

Herera, thanks for joining us.  

GRIFFETH:  I`m Bill Griffeth.  Have a great evening.  We`ll see you 


END ��Ew�~

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