Janet Yellen’s press conference will be the event to watch today, as odds making continues on when she will begin to raise interest rates.
A survey of economists in the Wall Street Journal last week found most were betting on September. The future markets are betting December. We’re not betting, but think it is past time for the central bank to get its rate structure back to something closer to normal. Stay tuned.
Separately, speculation about health insurers merging continues to be a story to watch. The urge to merge should be no surprise in an industry changing as rapidly as this one. When we polled Fortune 500 CEOs recently, 76% agreed with the statement that society would be better off if employees “take responsibility for their own health care and retirement.” And they are backing those words with action, as employer support for health care is falling, despite rising medical costs. Meanwhile, the need to negotiate with hospitals, doctors, and, most importantly, with Medicare makes size a critical advantage for insurers.
Fortune’s Shawn Tully points out that if United Health and Aetna were to combine, they would have plenty of size – overtaking Apple as number five on the Fortune 500.
Enjoy the day. And stay healthy.
• Carey staying at Fox as Murdoch sons rise
21st Century Fox officially announced what everyone already knew, which is that founder and controlling shareholder Rupert Murdoch will step aside as CEO and his sons will be promoted to chief executive (James) and executive co-chairman (Lachlan). Much more unclear was where the promotions left Chase Carey, Fox’s COO and onetime rumored heir apparent to Murdoch at Fox. On Tuesday, the company’s board named Carey executive vice chairman, a role he will remain in for a year in order to help acclimate the younger Murdochs to their new positions of power. Carey has been an instrumental force at Fox, helping to build Fox News and leading the way on an early NFL broadcast deal.
The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
• Coty soars on P&G deal reports
Shares of Coty closed trading up more than 5% following reports that the French beauty products company is set to win an auction process for Procter & Gamble’s beauty business. If JAB Holdings-controlled Coty does indeed lock up the $12 billion deal, it would land such brands as Clairol hair products and Cover Girl make-up, while more than doubling its annual revenue and becoming the world’s leading seller of perfume and hair care products.
• House buys time for Obama trade bill
House Republicans secured a six-week extension for the vote on President Obama’s beleaguered trade bill, the Trans Pacific Partnership. House lawmakers will now have until the end of July to try to salvage the bill, which previously failed to advance from the House after many House Democrats broke ranks with the president. One way the bill could succeed would be if the White House agreed to separate a controversial measure granting Obama fast-track trade negotiating authority from a worker assistance provision that House Democrats balked at in the previous vote.
• Swiss prosecutor seizes bank data in FIFA probe
Switzerland’s attorney general said his office seized 9 terabytes of bank data related to an investigation into the allocation of the FIFA World Cups for 2018 and 2022, which went to Russia and Qatar, respectively. The Swiss anti-money laundering office is looking into more than 50 different banking activities as part of the investigation into potential criminal mismanagement of the allocation process. U.S. and Swiss authorities have indicted 14 FIFA executives on charges of bribery and money laundering, and FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently said he would step down.
Around the Water Cooler
• What the CIA has in common with Silicon Valley
The Central Intelligence Agency’s chief information officer told a room full of techies on Tuesday that his employer is a lot like the tech industry. The CIA’s Doug Wolfe, speaking at a tech conference, was talking about the agency’s keen interest in a new, open-source data-processing technology called Spark, which has the tech world abuzz over its ability to sort through and analyze information more quickly than other free big data software. Much like big tech companies, the CIA wants to quickly pull pertinent info out of reams of data. The only difference from the techies is that the government is a bit more likely to be sifting through items such as foreign bank statements and cellular records of suspected terrorists.
• Hulu takes on Netflix
Hulu, which officially dropped the word “Plus” from its subscription service, has been stocking up on content-licensing deals with big media companies in an effort to present a stronger challenge to the streaming video service’s larger rival, Netflix. Of course, Hulu is co-owned by a few of those big media players (namely Fox, Comcast, and Walt Disney), so their ability to strike a deal or two can’t be all that surprising. Nonetheless, Hulu is spending more on content — including the online rights to hit shows Empire and Seinfeld — and growing its user base, from 6 million last year to the current 9 million, though it still has a long way to go to reach Netflix’s 40 million U.S. subscribers.
• Automakers tap the power of used batteries
With sales of electric car the Chevy Volt climbing, General Motors has plans to make a business out of repurposing used electric car batteries that hang on to much of their storage capacity even after they stop being of use in running a vehicle. GM has been testing the applications of the secondhand batteries for years and currently uses old Chevy Volt batteries to help power a data center in Michigan. GM isn’t alone, as Nissan recently teamed with an energy storage startup to reuse batteries from the LEAF electric car to store power for industrial buildings.
• Heroes of the Fortune 500
From a Comcast technician who grows produce that he donates to the hungry to a cocktail waitress at MGM Resorts who founded a non-profit to help sex-trafficking victims, here are 53 Fortune 500 employees responsible for various remarkable acts of kindness and charity. Here are their stories: