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Health care earnings season starts in earnest this week. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson today kicks off second-quarter earnings for a health care industry that has been fighting Wall Street jitters despite record-level profits.

The big picture: Wall Street has low expectations for all of corporate America in Q2, but health care may be different. A lot of the industry isn't affected by the Trump administration's trade war with China, and all available data suggests health care spending is not meaningfully slowing down.

Driving the news: Johnson & Johnson faces unique situations, like Oklahoma's demand that the company pay $17.5 billion to settle its opioid case and a possible criminal probe into its baby powder.

  • While those types of cases affect future profits, Johnson & Johnson and other health care companies are raising prices and getting more people to use their products and services.
  • Most health care sectors are expected to increase earnings per share by at least 8% this year, although pharmaceuticals will come in at slower rates, according to FactSet estimates.
  • Health care, unlike technology and nonessential consumer goods, is less exposed to tariffs, and the industry gets reliable cash flows through taxpayer funding and workers' paychecks.

What we're watching: Health insurance companies.

  • They've combined with pharmacy benefit managers, putting them on pace to become bigger than the Big Tech stocks this year, and they have routinely registered higher-than-expected profits the past few years.
  • The GOP tax law and a hiatus to an Affordable Care Act tax have helped, and now insurers avoided a regulation that would've eliminated a source of drug revenue.
  • Health insurance "earnings have been exceptionally strong, and we expect 2Q19 earnings to continue on this path," Barclays analysts wrote in an investor note.

Go deeper: Follow along with our updated health care earnings tracker.

Go deeper

Updated 1 min ago - Politics & Policy

Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill

Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-50 — with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie — to proceed to debate on President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, likely setting up a final vote this weekend.

The state of play: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) forced Senate clerks to read the entire 628-page bill on the floor, which took nearly 11 hours and lasted until 2:05 a.m. Friday. The Senate then adjourned and is expected to reconvene at 9 a.m. to debate the bill before considering amendments.

1 hour ago - Health

Cuomo advisers reportedly altered July COVID-19 nursing homes report

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Seth Wenig/AFP via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's advisers successfully pushed state health officials to exclude certain data on the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths from a July report, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

Why it matters: The changes resulted in a "significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population," the WSJ wrote.

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

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