Transcript: Nightly Business Report – October 15, 2015

ANNOUNCER:  This is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT with Tyler Mathisen and Sue Herera.


SHARON EPPERSON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR:  On hold.  Why cheap gas is preventing some older Americans from getting a raise.



Subpoena sent to a pharmaceutical company now at the center of the drug pricing debate.


EPPERSON:  And claimed defense.  Why the man who writes checks for the Pentagon is growing increasingly frustrated.


All that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Thursday, October 15th.


MATHISEN:  Good evening, everyone, and welcome.  Thanks for joining us.


A rally day on Wall Street today.  The major indexes all climbed more than 1 percent.  One reason, some not so hot economic data.  Information that traders say lengthens the odds the Federal Reserve will boost interest rates this year.  Low rates is, of course, good news for stocks, all other news being equal.


Here are the numbers for Thursday.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 217 points.  It finished at 17,141.  NASDAQ notched an 87-point gain.

And the S&P 500 was 29 points higher.


As for that iffy economic data, the Labor Department said its index of consumer prices fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in September.  It`s not much, but it`s the biggest drop in eight months, and it leaves inflation well below the central bank`s 2 percent target.  Now, the reason for the decline is primarily because of falling gasoline prices.


EPPERSON:  And it is that drop in gasoline prices that caused millions of older Americans to get some bad news.  The federal government today made it official, that social security beneficiaries will not get an annual raise in benefits next year.  Prices aren`t rising enough to justify one.

And as Social Security benefits remain flat, nearly 1/3 of Medicare recipients could be paying a lot more for their monthly premiums.


Hampton Pearson has the story.




HAMPTON PEARSON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  There will be no cost of living increase next year for the nearly 65 million Social Security recipients.  With cheaper gasoline leading the way, government data showed an overall drop in prices last year.


By law, Social Security recipients only get a cost of living increase if prices rise.  The Obama White House took note of what it described as the unintended consequences.


JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The administration is aware of this frankly unintended policy consequence.


PEARSON:  The 38 million-member AARP was less diplomatic, saying the government`s inflation market basket shortchanges seniors.


CRISTINA MARTIN-FIRVIDA, AARP DIR. OF FINANCIAL SECURITY:  Older Americans spend much more out of pocket on health care, food and housing than do younger workers.  And we need a market basket that reflects that reality.


PEARSON:  Meanwhile, at least 7 million seniors could see their health insurance premiums skyrocket.  Their bills for Medicare Part B, the insurance that covers doctor visits and outpatient care could increase by more than 50 percent next year.  Health policy experts say it`s all connected to a Social Security provision that protects beneficiaries from any cuts in their benefit checks when Medicare premiums rise.


HENRY AARON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION:  If you`re going to collect a quarter of the cost of the program overall and the overall cost of the program has gone up some, that means that you`re going to have to collect it all from the minority of enrollees who are not protected by this exclusion.


PEARSON:  CMS, the agency that runs Medicare, is not commenting on what it calls speculation, that a big premium hike in Medicare is coming.

Meanwhile, the AARP and other proactive senior groups want Congress to put a freeze on Medicare premiums as part of any budget deal negotiated between now and the end of the year.


For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Hampton Pearson in Washington.




MATHISEN:  David Certner joins us now to talk more about that flat Social Security benefit and rising Medicare premiums and what it all means for some older Americans.  He`s the legislative policy director at the aforementioned AARP.


Mr. Certner, welcome.


There are a lot of directions we could go here with this conversation.

We`ll try to go as quickly to as many of them as we can.  But 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will now see their premiums go up by 52 percent.

Who are those 30 percent?


DAVID CERTNER, AARP LEGISLATIVE POLICY DIRECTOR:  Well, there`s a group of 70 percent who are held harmless but there`s another group of 30 percent who are not.  And they not only see their increases, but they have to pick up everybody else`s increases as well.


So, these are new beneficiaries.  These are people who delay taking their Social Security benefits.  They`re people who are not covered by Social Security because maybe they`re covered by a state and local plan.

And they`re people who pay higher income premiums.  So, it`s a big diverse group which also includes low-income beneficiaries whose premiums are paid by the states generally who pick up the low income.  It`s a big group.


MATHISEN:  Is it fair to say, or am I making too big a generalization that people who are — and have been covered by Social Security will not see this increase?


CERTNER:  Anybody who`s on Social Security now doesn`t get a COLA.  So they`re already missing out on not getting a COLA.  In addition, there`s 30 percent who are going to see probably a 50 percent increase in their premiums and on top of that everybody, all Medicare beneficiaries are going to see a 50 percent increase in their deductible.  So, everyone is going to be harmed here, some very much so by these large spikes.


EPPERSON:  So, what changes can be made to make sure there is a cost of living adjustment given every year?  You say that looking at the CPI

(NYSE:CPY) traditionally is not necessarily the way to look at it when just because there are low gas prices doesn`t mean that prices for older Americans, prescription drugs, deductibles and many other costs are going up.


CERTNER:  Right.  But, currently, the CPI (NYSE:CPY) that`s governing Social Security benefits is really a CPI (NYSE:CPY) for workers.  And seniors tend to have a different market basket.  We think if we use a different market basket that reflected what seniors purchase, we would have a different measure that`s more accurate, and in this case, this year, we would obviously have seen a bigger Social Security COLA, obviously bigger than none.  We would have had some.


MATHISEN:  So, basically, you`d like to see the Cost of Living Adjustment based on a measure that is particular to seniors.


Let`s go back to the Medicare premium increase that will affect that

30 percent category.  What can be done there?  I hear that there is some move in Congress to try and do something that would blunt it.  The White House has said it is concerned about it.


What would you have them do?


CERTNER:  Well, we have a hold harmless provision that protects 70 percent of the population, but we really have a silly outcome here because all the costs of that 70 percent then fall on the 30 percent and that to us makes no sense.  We should make sure we hold harmless everybody from the premium increases.  And we have legislation —


MATHISEN:  How would you pay for it if the costs are going up, David?


CERTNER:  Well, that`s the debate of course always in Congress, is how do you offset and how do you pay for this?  And that`s been one of the hang-ups that we`re seeing right now.  I think most people realize this is a problem here, that this doesn`t make sense, that we have this huge 50 percent spike in premiums and deductibles, and there`s always a discussion of how — OK, how do we offset this?


MATHISEN:  All right.  David, thank you very much.  David Certner with AARP.  A thorny issue to be sure.


EPPERSON:  Definitely.


Valeant Pharmaceuticals under pressure for how it prices its drugs.

The company said it`s been subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney`s offices for Massachusetts and the southern district of New York, requesting more information about price decisions, patient support as well as access.  And that sent shares of Valeant nearly 5 percent lower today.


Meg Tirrell has more on this drug pricing controversy.




MEG TIRRELL, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  It just keeps getting worse for Valeant Pharmaceuticals.  The company said it`s also responded to a letter from Senator Claire McCaskill about two heart drugs in particular, Nitropress and Isuprel.  Valeant acquired them earlier this year and raised their prices by more than 200 percent and 500 percent, according to the senator`s letter.  October 14th was the deadline the senator gave the company to respond.


Hospitals say increases such as these will hit them hard.  Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby X Cosgrove recently discussed the impact to his hospital.


  1. TOBY COSGROVE, CLEVELAND CLINIC CEO & PRESIDENT: We`ve seen just seven drugs in our inventory raise our cost $11 million in one year simply by raising the price of drugs that have been around for 30 or 40 or 50 years and are very common use.  We`ve seen 600 percent increase in these drugs in one year.  Some of the drugs have had their prices raised eight, nine times in one year`s period of time.


TIRRELL:  The clinic says Valeant`s drugs Isuprel and Nitropress alone will cost an extra $8.5 million.


Valeant`s not alone in the practice of raising the price of old medicines nor is it the only company in the crosshairs of politicians.

Turing pharmaceuticals, the private drug maker run by a 32-year-old former hedge fund manager, blasted the issue into the national spotlight last month, after it raised the price of an old drug by 5,000 percent.


Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders seized on the issue, claiming they have plans to curb price gouging.


Valeant`s stock has taken a big beating as a result of the attention, falling almost 30 percent in the last month.  That compares with a decline of just about 4 percent for an index of pharmaceutical stocks.  Still, analysts that cover Valeant are defending the company.


TIM CHIANG, BTIG ANALYST:  Our view is that Valeant is actually one of the most diversified specialty pharmaceutical companies not only here in the U.S. but globally.  Ninety percent of their business isn`t really tied to high-priced products.  In fact, they have a very sound business, we believe.


TIRRELL:  Others don`t agree.  Ronnie Gal at Bernstein tells me he`d hold off on buying the stock for a few months as the attorney general`s investigations play out.  He said right now, it`s not clear that any of these practices are actually illegal, perhaps just distasteful.


But any consequences will, of course, depend on what the investigators find.  Valeant says it`s reviewing the subpoenas and intends to cooperate with the investigations.  It also says it`s contacting hospitals where, quote, “the impact of a price change was significantly greater than the average.”


CEO Mike Pearson in a statement said he believes the companies operated in a fully compliant manner and that it`s committed to assisting eligible patients who need Valeant`s products.


As for price increases, analysts say they may be smaller across the industry for at least the next year as these issues continue to dominate the national conversation.






MATHISEN:  Meantime, the FBI and the Department of Justice are reportedly investigating the daily fantasy sports industry.  As first reported by “The Wall Street Journal,” investigators want to know more about the business models of companies like Draft Kings and Fan Duel.


Eamon Javers has been following this story from Washington.


What, Eamon, exactly are the FBI and DOJ going after, trying to determine?


EAMON JAVERS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Tyler, we don`t know exactly what they`re trying to figure out here.  We do know that the FBI is apparently looking at it according to “The Wall Street Journal”

and “The New York Times (NYSE:NYT).”  The FBI is refusing to confirm that itself.


But in theory, what they need to understand here to find out if there was any fraud is how these companies operate on the inside.  They`ve apparently been contacting a lot of the biggest and most successful players of these fantasy sports to understand how they earn their winnings.  And the question here is whether any of the companies on the employees` side had access to insider information that would have made it possible for them to make bets on other sites and profit by what they knew about other players inside the system.


That`s the question here.  And it looks like the FBI`s trying to get to the bottom of it.


EPPERSON:  Eamon, how likely is it that Congress is going to weigh in on this?


JAVERS:  I think you could see hearings from Congress as early as this fall on this.  So far at least we`ve seen a lot of interest on the Democratic side in having some kind of hearings but not so much on the Republican side.  Although you feel like they are warming up to this idea, there is massive media interest in this, massive popular interest in this.


If you watch televised sports at all in this country, you have seen tons of advertisements for both of these two companies, Fan Duel and Draft Kings.  All of that would likely indicate to me some congressional interest is coming down the pike.


MATHISEN:  There`s billions of dollars flowing into and presumably out of these leagues, these fantasy leagues.  But let`s talk about the real leagues.  What are the implications for them?  Because some of the leagues, notably not the NFL, as I understand it, have in some cases some very close relationships or stakes in these companies.


JAVERS:  Yes, it`s clear that the leagues see a revenue opportunity here from this kind of fantasy sports.  To them, it`s a good thing.  It gets people interested in watching their games, maybe even games of teams that aren`t the home town team.


But the leagues have also spent generations trying to stave off any kind of corruption, game fixing, mafia influence, gambling of all sorts.

So, they`re going to have a real interest in making sure that they partner with these firms and these firms are offering clean games for their subscribers.


MATHISEN:  Yes, the game needs to be square.


Eamon, thank you very much — Eamon Javers.


JAVERS:  You bet.


MATHISEN:  We should point out that Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NYSE:CCS) and NBC, the parents of NBR`s producer, have stakes in the Fan Duel site.


EPPERSON:  Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says the debt limit will be reached November 3rd.  That`s two days before the Treasury Department`s previous estimate.  In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Lew said that after the new deadline the Treasury will have less than $30 billion to fund the government.


Still ahead, why a top official at the Pentagon is growing frustrated with the defense industry.




MATHISEN:  Volkswagen is recalling 8.5 million diesel cars in Europe, including about 2.5 million in Germany.  The cars in question have that software that can cheat emissions tests.  The announcement follows reports that German regulators ordered a mandatory recall.


EPPERSON:  A.B. InBev is reportedly planning a $55 billion bond sale to fund its acquisition of SABMiller.  According to Bloomberg, that would set a record for debt issuance to fund a corporate takeover.  The bonds would be issued in multiple currencies and with different maturities.


MATHISEN:  Profit at Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) plunged for the second straight quarter.  The bank missed estimates on both the top and bottom line.  Still, shares rose 3 percent in today`s up session.


Mary Thompson digs deeper into Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) results.




MARY THOMPSON, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  A rare miss for Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS).  Profits and revenue at the Wall Street powerhouse falling shy of analysts` forecasts, following a volatile quarter marked by uncertainty over China`s economy, the timing of U.S. interest rate hikes, and a declining commodity prices like oil that CFO Harvey Schwartz said hurt Goldman`s business.


HARVEY SCHWARTZ, GOLDMAN SACHS CFO:  The sum impact of these various events led to lower levels of client activity and a significant re-pricing of the equity and credit markets.


THOMPSON:  Hardest hit, Goldman`s business to trade fixed income commodities and currencies.  It`s known as FICC, and it`s Goldman`s biggest business line, accounting for a fifth of its revenue.  In the last quarter, FICC revenue plunged an adjusted 27 percent.  A bigger decline than the results of its Wall Street rivals.


Goldman`s investing and lending business, which handles the firm`s own investments, also had a tough quarter as revenue fell 60 percent.


There were some bright spots.  Equity trading was strong, as was year over year growth in advisory fees, or the money it gets advising companies on mergers and acquisitions.  A trend Goldman`s co-head of M&A expects will remain in place.


DAVID SOLOMON, GOLDMAN SACHS CO-HEAD INVESTMENT BANKING:  Our M&A pipeline continues to build.  We continue to see increased dialogue with CEOs and barring any sort of a significant market dislocation, my expectation is that we continue.


THOMPSON:  Investors will hope it does.  Should its mighty trading arm falter again in the fourth quarter, it`s Goldman`s investment bankers who will need to provide the fuel for future profit growth.






EPPERSON:  Citigroup (NYSE:C) sees its profits surge, and that`s where we begin tonight`s “Market Focus.”


Citi`s profit topped analyst estimates, but like the other big banks that have reported so far, the company saw its revenue fall in its most recent quarter because of stock market volatility.  A big reduction in legal bills helped its bottom line and overshadowed a revenue miss.  Share rose more than 4 percent to $52.97.


Dow component United Health Group posted earnings that just beat estimates.  Revenue rose, helped by a recent acquisition.  The company says it expects future results to come in at the conservative end of estimates.

Shares fell 1.5 percent to $120.17.


And a recent merger weighed on BB&T`s latest quarter.  Earnings fell, but the bank said a key read on lending profitability improved.  That sent shares up 3 percent to $36.86.


A disappointing quarter for Winnebago.  The company reporting lower than expected profit as customers bought cheaper versions of its motorhomes.  Shares fell 4 percent to $19.28.


MATHISEN:  Well, Sharon, First Data made its market debut today.  The payments processing company priced below expectations at $16 a share in the largest initial public offering of the year so far.  The company is a competitor of Visa (NYSE:V) and Square among others.  But the CEO says they have a plan to take on those firms.




FRANK BISIGNANO, FIRST DATA CEO:  Well, if you look at what we`ve done over the past two years, we`ve completely transformed the company.  We were a no growth company, and we`ve changed that.  We changed how we approach our clients.  We enterprise solutions to them.  We brought a lot of innovation, a bunch of start-ups that we feel great about.




MATHISEN:  Shares ended 1 1/2 percent lower at $15.76.


Garmin (NASDAQ:GRMN) cut its earnings forecast for its third quarter and the full-year.  The GPS maker blamed the current global economic environment among other things.  Shares slid more than 12.5 percent, bad day there, down at $32.28.


And according to “The Wall Street Journal”, McDonald`s may decide to change the structure of its U.S. real estate.  This as some investors have called for the chain to spin of its real estate holdings into a real estate investment trust.  Shares of Micky D`s up a fraction to $103.66.


And sticking with the restaurants, Yum updated its full-year guidance after the close.  The fast food chain that owns brands like Pizza Hut said its sales in China could be lower because of the ongoing volatility there.

Still, shares popped in initial after hours trading, as you there.  During the regular session, the stock was 1 percent higher.  It finished at $69.28.


EPPERSON:  Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) is realigning its businesses and reshuffling its senior management.  The defense company named a chief operating officer, filling a position that had been vacant since 2009.  It also plans to streamline its business sectors, reducing the number to three from four.


Some analysts say the move could prompt the company to separate out its government services arm.  Shares of Northrop are up a fraction today, but as you can see here they`ve more than doubled since 2013 when it launched a big buyback program.


MATHISEN:  And it is those buyback programs for major defense companies that don`t always sit well with the Department of Defense, which doles out billions of dollars in contracts to the sector every year.


Jane Wells talks to the man in charge of the Pentagon`s money about some of his issues with the industry.




JANE WELLS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  The gravy train for the defense industry has less gravy these days.  Frustrating the man at the Pentagon in charge of writing checks who sees new threats rising but has to operate under what he calls, quote, “This crazy sequestration thing.”




WELLS:  Undersecretary for Acquisitions Frank Kendall says if Congress doesn`t pass a new budget, he will have to cut $20 billion out of purchases.  So, defense contractors are doing what they need to stay healthy.  He doesn`t like it.


It`s natural to consolidate, repurchase shares, hunker down.  Isn`t it?


KENDALL:  Yes.  And I understand that.  But it`s not necessarily the best for the government to have that happen.


WELLS:  The Justice Department recently approved Lockheed`s purchase of Sikorsky.  And Kendall wants to be able to have more say in these mergers as fewer companies means taxpayers have less buying power.


KENDALL:  This trend toward consolidation through mergers, a tool that gave us some sort of a national security basis for intervening I think would be useful.


WELLS:  Have you asked for that?


KENDALL:  I`m working with my staff and I`ll be working with the Congress to make some recommendations to the Congress about what they might do along those lines.


WELLS:  Then there are the billions of dollars in share buybacks defense companies are making to prop up their stock price.  Kendall would like to see more of those taxpayer-provided profits going to research and development.  Analysts couldn`t disagree more.  And companies say they`re already doing R&D.


HOWARD RUBEL, JEFFERIES DEFENSE ANALYST:  Pentagon officials ought to take a lesson in economics to understand how the capital markets work rather than, you know, come up with these, you know, statements that really are devoid of understanding of economics.


WELLS:  But when you`re the defense industry`s largest customer, you can throw your weight around.  Kendall not only wants more R&D from traditional players, he`s dangling the prospect of lucrative business to Silicon Valley, where the Defense Department has set up an office.  Why?

He`s afraid the U.S. is losing its edge.


KENDALL:  I`m very concerned about U.S. technological superiority.

And as I look at the modernization programs of China in particular and also Russia, I think we have cause to be concerned.


WELLS:  And that concern is creating tension between buyer and seller.


For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Jane Wells, Washington.




EPPERSON:  Coming up — women in tech.  There aren`t a lot of them, but reversing that trend could be good for the economy.  We`ll explain why.




MATHISEN:  Here, folks, what to watch tomorrow.  The Dow component General Electric (NYSE:GE) one of the most widely held stocks will announce its earnings.  On the data front, a read on industrial production, also a report on consumer sentiment.  We`ll see how you guys are feeling.  That`s what to watch Friday.


EPPERSON:  There is a wide gender gap in the world of technology, but that`s nothing new.  But did you know that reversing that trend could bode well for the economy?


Julia Boorstin reports tonight from the largest tech conference for women in computing in Houston.




JULIA BOORSTIN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT:  Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO)! Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), they`re among the tech and internet giants at the Grace Hopper celebration of women in computing.  It`s drawn

12,000 attendees, up from 8,000 last year.


Here to recruit, network, and address the massive imbalance in technology, where women make up just 26 percent of the workforce, earning just 81 cents on the dollar compared to men in computer and tech jobs.


The chief technology officer of the United States says that it isn`t just bad for women.  It`s bad for the economy.


MEGAN SMITH, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER OF THE UNITED STATES:  This is a huge problem for our country.  We have over half a million jobs open right now in the United States in tech.  They`re all over the country.  They`re in all different industries, manufacturing, in retail, in health care, et cetera.  And so, we need more people to train.


What`s interesting about the tech jobs is they pay 50 percent more than the average American private sector salary.


BOORSTIN:  Getting more women into tech jobs could help close the wage gap, generate more purchasing power, and make the U.S. more competitive.

But while all of the tech giants have talked about working to diversify their workforce, they`re making little progress.  A recent “Fortune” survey of nine of the biggest tech and Internet companies found that on average their workforces are just around 30 percent female and Microsoft

(NASDAQ:MSFT) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) are among the worst at just 4 percent.


And the gender gap grows in senior management.  At Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) less than

20 percent of the management team is female.


YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki who`s working to improve her company`s numbers says education needs to bring more women into the pipeline and tech companies need to fix their culture to hold on to those women.


SUSAN WOJCICKI, YOUTUBE CEO:  Women earn over half of all bachelor`s degrees in America.  But they earn fewer than 20 percent of the computer science degrees.  And, unfortunately, this problem isn`t getting better.


BOORSTIN:  The head of the Anita Borg Institute, which hosts the conference, says she`s optimistic about companies from Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) to GoDaddy talking about the problem and trying to solve it.


All the companies here hope there will be a day when women no longer have to have a separate conference.


For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Julia Boorstin in Houston.




MATHISEN:  China now has more billionaires than the United States for the first time ever.  This according to a Shanghai-based research firm.  It says there are 596 billionaires in China.  It knows every single one of them, compared to 537 of them here.  Much of the wealth creation is due to the rise in the stock market, which despite the recent stumble is still up about 40 percent over in shanghai from a year ago.


EPPERSON:  Let`s take a look at the day on Wall Street once again.

The Dow rose 217 points to 17,141.  The NASDAQ notched an 87-point gain.

And the S&P 500 was higher by 29 points.


That`s NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight.  I`m Sharon Epperson.

Thanks so much for watching.


MATHISEN:  And I`m Tyler Mathisen.  Have a great evening, everybody.




Nightly Business Report transcripts and video are available on-line post broadcast at The program is transcribed by CQRC Transcriptions, LLC. Updates may be posted at a later date. The views of our guests and commentators are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Nightly Business Report, or CNBC, Inc. Information presented on Nightly Business Report is not and should not be considered as investment advice. (c) 2015 CNBC, Inc.


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