Daily Agenda: Emerging Markets Rise on Sliding Dollar

Aetna drops most of its Obamacare coverage; BHP posts record loss; VW nears settlement with DOJ; Gawker auction struggles.


Emerging market currencies and commodities rose for the second day on Tuesday as the U.S. dollar continued to decline. Global traders appear less convinced that the Federal Reserve will raise rates in September, following mixed economic data at home and sluggish demand abroad that drove the greenback lower against major currencies. Spot gold prices in London rose by nearly 1 percent in early trading in response. For now, investors appear content to remain on the beach and watch from a distance after the Standard & Poor’s 500 drifted to fresh highs on Monday, despite concerns over earnings as a downbeat reporting season came to an end.

Aetna drops Obamacare. On Monday, Aetna announced it will drop almost 70 percent of its current individual health coverage available under the Affordable Care Act. The insurance giant expects to reap significant savings after booking nearly $200 million in losses before taxes on the coverage plans due to the high percentage of high-cost-need subscribers. The news follows a statement by executives two weeks ago during the second-quarter earnings shareholder call that Aetna was considering options regarding the state insurance-exchange programs.

BHP announces record loss. Australian mining giant BHP Billiton announced a record fiscal full-year loss today of more than $6 billion driven by declining base metal and oil demand globally. In addition to a decline in revenue of 31 percent versus the prior year, the company also wrote down assets in its global portfolio. In the accompany statement, management indicated that cost-cutting measures will continue.

Home Depot earnings rise as homeowners spend more. On Tuesday, home-repair retailer Home Depot announced second quarter financial results that included a 9.3 percent year-over-year rise in profits driven by rising home improvement spending. Per share earnings registered at $1.97, in line with consensus analysts’ estimates, while revenues also climbed as expected. Home Depot raised guidance for the full year as rising home values continue to provide confidence to owners considering improvements.

VW, DOJ near settlement. According to several news agencies, the U.S. Department of Justice and Volkswagen are nearing a settlement over possible criminal charges related to the emissions-testing scandal that rocked the German company last year. The company has already agreed to nearly $15 billion in civil settlements with U.S. consumers. Last month the Bavarian auto giant reported second-quarter earnings that included a 56 percent contraction in profits versus the same period last year.

Gawker finds few bidders. According to multiple media outlets, interest from potential buyers for Gawker Media, which has sought court protection after losing a widely publicized invasion-of-privacy lawsuit, has been spare. According to unnamed sources, both Ziff Davis and Univision Holdings have been the only potential suitors to emerge. No bids yet reported are equal to the $115 million-dollar judgment against the online media company.