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Layoffs at Aetna?

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According to the Associated Press, health insurer Aetna (AET - Free Report) has warned employees that it may carry out selective job cuts. The company reducing the size of its ahead of what CEO Ronald Williams predicted would be "a major economic slowdown in 2009". Hartford-based Aetna employs 36,139 people. The stock is down marginally today.

Management refused to outline the extent or the timeframe but emphasized that "all appropriate options" would be taken up to cut costs, the AP reported. AET is also putting a cap on hiring and has decided to curtail travel for company meetings.

Nearly all of the covering brokerage analysts have cut their forecasts on AET in recent weeks. The current consensus earnings estimate calls for profits of $4.11 next year, 33 cents below the average forecast of a month ago.

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