Business Briefs – January 17, 2017

As U.S. Looks Inward, China Seeks A Lead Role on World Stage

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) – With the U.S. increasingly looking inward and China eager to take a lead on the global stage, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday cast his country as a champion of free trade and stability, a rebuke to the isolationist urges that helped carry Donald Trump to power.

Some of the elites listening in Davos, Switzerland, hailed a statesmanlike, even Barack Obama-like speech from Xi as the first Chinese head of state to attend the World Economic Forum — even if it depicted a Chinese commitment to open markets that falls short of reality.

The speech, rife with metaphor and allusions to Ali Baba, Chinese proverbs and even Abraham Lincoln, highlighted a high-brow effort to make a contrast with an incoming U.S. leader whose own words regularly stirred controversy at home and abroad and created new doubts about U.S. leadership in the world.

UnitedHealth Looks Beyond Insurance to Help Fuel 4Q Growth

NEW YORK (AP) – The nation’s biggest health insurer made most of its money in the fourth quarter by selling things other than health insurance.

UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division, which manages prescription drug plans, runs doctor practices and analyzes health-care data, generated slightly more of a profit than the company’s traditional business of selling insurance.

Health insurance still brought in most of UnitedHealth’s revenue. But analysts who follow the company see more growth potential in Optum and its array of products focused on cutting costs and improving health care, topics more Americans are concerned with as medical costs rise faster than wages and inflation every year.

Morgan Stanley Beats Profit Forecasts, Helped by Trading

NEW YORK (AP) – Investment bank Morgan Stanley said its fourth-quarter profits jumped 83 percent from a year earlier, helped by strong results in its stock and bond trading business.

Morgan Stanley said Tuesday it earned $1.67 billion in the fourth quarter, or 81 cents per share, compared with $908 million, or 43 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. The results easily beat analysts’ expectations of 65 cents per share.

The Wall Street bank’s trading desks had a blockbuster quarter, benefiting heavily from the rally in U.S. markets following the U.S. presidential election. Morgan Stanley’s institutional securities division, which includes its investment bank and trading operations, reported a pre-tax profit of $1.3 billion compared with $672 million in the same period a year earlier.