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UnitedHealth expects 2016 growth despite exchange loss

UnitedHealth Group Inc on Tuesday reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit that also cleared the decks for growth this year as it booked anticipated 2016 losses on its individual exchange business.

“2016 is off to a strong start, considerably stronger than 2015,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Hemsley said during a conference call with investors.

UnitedHealth is the first health insurer to announce fourth-quarter financial results, and its shares rose more than 3 percent in morning trading. Competitors Aetna Inc and Anthem Inc also rose, gaining 1.3 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.