CVS executives knew that some of their sales would go up in smoke when they decided last year to stop selling cigarettes. The press release announcing that all 7,600 CVS stores nationwide would stop selling all tobacco products acknowledged that sales would take a hit. Still, the company said, “This is the right thing to do.”
The costs of the decision are now becoming clear. CVS Health’s general merchandise sales slumped 7.8 percent last quarter on a same-store basis, the company said Tuesday. The company claims non-pharmacy sales would have stayed the same if tobacco sales — and the other products cigarette buyers added to their baskets — were removed from sales figures for the same quarter in 2014.
Same-store sales in the pharmacy category climbed 4.1 percent, boosting overall same-store sales growth to 0.5 percent compared with the second quarter of last year, down from a 1.2 percent year-over-year increase the previous quarter. Net revenue overall grew by 7.4 percent to $37.2 billion, helped by pharmacy services revenue that surged 11.9 percent ($2.6 billion) to $24.4 billion. The company has reportedly increased its market share in the health and beauty categories (it did, however, narrow its full-year earnings forecast).
So even as the move to drop cigarettes has cost the company, its bet on health as the source of future growth may be starting to pay off. CVS stock dropped in the wake of its earnings announcement, but shares are still up more than 15 percent on the year and 44 percent over the past 12 months.
Weeks after President Trump said that drugmakers were about to implement “voluntary massive drops in prices” — reductions that have yet to materialize — Pfizer has raised prices on 100 of its products, The Financial Times’s David Crow reports:
“The increases were effective as of July 1 and in most cases were more than 9 per cent — well above the rate of inflation in the US, which is running at about 2 per cent. … Pfizer, the largest standalone drugmaker in the US, did decrease the prices of five products by between 16 per cent and 44 per cent, according to the figures.”
Crow notes that Pfizer also raised prices on many of its medicines in January, meaning that some prices have been hiked by nearly 20 percent this year. The drugmaker said that it was only changing prices on 10 percent of its medicines and that list prices did not reflect what most patients or insurers actually paid. The net price increase after rebates and discounts was expected to be in the “low single digits,” the company told the FT.
The Republican tax overhaul was supposed to simplify the tax code, but most experts say it fell well short of the goal. Martin Sullivan, chief economist at Tax Analysts, tweeted out a chart of the analysis required to determine whether income qualifies for the passthrough tax deduction of 20 percent, and as you’ll see, it’s anything but simple.
Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, offers a blistering critique of congressional Republican’s problems cutting spending:
Since the Republicans took the House in 2011, nearly every annual budget blueprint has promised to balance the budget within a decade with anywhere from $5 trillion to $8 trillion in spending cuts. And yet, you may have noticed, the budget has not moved towards balance. This is because the budget merely sets a broad fiscal goal. To actually cut spending, Congress must follow up with specific legislation to reform Medicare, Medicaid, and all the other targeted programs. In reality, most lawmakers who pass these budgets have no intention whatsoever of cutting this spending. As soon as the budget is passed, the targets are forgotten. The spending-cut legislation is never even drafted, much less voted on.
The annual budget exercise is thus a cynical exercise in symbolism. Congress calculates how much spending must be cut over ten years to balance the budget. Then they pass legislation setting a goal of cutting that amount. Then they move on to other business. It’s like a baseball team announcing that they voted to win the next World Series, and then not showing up to play the season.
Friday marked the six-month anniversary of President Trump’s signing the Republican tax overhaul into law, and public opinion of the law is moving in the wrong direction for the GOP. A Monmouth University survey conducted earlier this month found that 34 percent of the public approves of the tax reform passed by Republicans late last year, while 41 percent disapprove. Approval has fallen by 6 points since late April and disapproval has slipped 3 points. The percentage of people who aren’t sure how they feel about the plan has risen from 16 percent in April to 24 percent this month.
Other findings from the poll of 806 U.S. adults:
- 19 percent approve of the job Congress is doing; 67 percent disapprove
- 40 percent say the country is heading in the right direction, up from 33 percent in April
- Democrats hold a 7-point edge in a generic House ballot
The U.S. Treasury has approved the final group of opportunity zones, which offer tax incentives for investments made in low-income areas. The zones were created by the tax law signed in December.
Bill Lucia of Route Fifty has some details: “Treasury says that nearly 35 million people live in the designated zones and that census tracts in the zones have an average poverty rate of about 32 percent based on figures from 2011 to 2015, compared to a rate of 17 percent for the average U.S. census tract.”
Click here to explore the dynamic map of the zones on the U.S. Treasury website.