Category Archives: Earnings

Market reacts to French election, tax cuts and earnings

The stock market had two back-to-back days with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) up over 200 points.  On Monday the market was reacting to the first round of elections in France.

The French election for President is often a two step process.  If a candidate gets over 50% of the vote in the first round of voting he or she is declared the winner and becomes President.  If no one gets to 50%, the two top vote getters face a run-off election which decides the Presidency.

In the first round that just ended, the candidates of the major French parties that had run the country for decades did not make it to the run-off.  Instead, Marine Le Pen (usually described as “Far Right”) and Emmanuel Macron (usually described as a “centrist”) were the two top vote getters.  They will face off on May 7th with the winner becoming President of France.

Macron, age 39, received 23.8% of the vote while Le Pen scooped up 21.4%.  Macron formed his own party, splitting off from the Socialists.  Macron is best known for marrying his teacher, a woman 25 years his senior.

It is generally assumed that Macron will win the next round with the French establishment uniting against Le Pen who wants to stop immigration and wants France to pull out of the EU.  The results of the balloting caused a relief rally in expectation that France will stay the current course and remain in the EU.

The Tuesday market action was driven by exuberance over the Trump administration announcement that they were proposing a reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%.  If this passes, next year’s corporate earnings would be higher.

On the earnings front some of the big names in the DJIA reported better-than-expected earnings.  Caterpillar, McDonald, Du Pont and Goldman Sachs were the biggest beneficiaries.

Stay tuned.

Tagged , ,

The Plow Horse is Dead – Long Live the Race Horse

Race horse

We have referred to the economy over the last decade as the “Plow Horse Economy.”  There has been a huge increase in technology available to the economy over that period of time.  “Fracking” has unlocked huge oil and gas reserves in the energy sector.  The “Internet of Things” is tying our appliances together, automating our homes, even allowing us to control them with voice commands.  Self-driving cars are becoming a reality faster than I believed possible.  3D printing is revolutionizing production processes.  Yet despite this dazzling technological revolution, the economy is only managing 1.2% GDP growth.

Why?

Many analysts believe that if we compare the economy to a horse, we have a thoroughbred economy that’s plodding along like a Plow Horse.  The problem is that the rider is too heavy.    That rider is the government.  It’s holding growth down.  In the year 2000 government was 17.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  In 2016 it was 21.1% of GDP, an increase of 20%.  That’s a big move from the private sector to the public sector.

Keep in mind that government doesn’t manufacture anything.

On top of that, government today regulates virtually everything, generating a hidden cost to producers and consumers.  Some analysts think it’s a miracle that the economy actually grew despite increased borrowing, taxes and regulation.

The incoming Trump administration has a staunchly pro-business agenda.  The focus on jobs and economic growth is front and center.  A new executive order instructs federal agencies to halt the issuance of more regulations, and the new President has indicated a desire to reduce them by 75%.   Another executive order has frozen hiring of federal employees, opening the door to replacing government employees with technology, something that has happened in the private sector.  Yet other executive actions advance the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines – using American steel – creating new high-paying construction jobs and indicating an interest in making America energy independent.  Reducing tax rates, especially the high corporate tax rate, is another Trump administration objective.  It’s the carrot to encourage companies to build here, even as he waves the stick of high tariffs for goods brought in from overseas.  It’s getting a respectful hearing from otherwise skeptical business leaders.

These actions are not going to be enough, but they are indications that the new administration is determined to streamline government and incentivize private industry to grow.  According to Brian Wesbury, Chief Economist of First Trust, the earning per share of the S&P 500 is estimated to be $130, an increase of 20% in 2017.  Growth in earnings of that magnitude can justify an increase in market valuations and add a few percentage points to the annual GDP.

To get back to our horse analogy, it looks as if the jockey riding the horse will be put on a diet.  If that happens the thoroughbred who was a “Plow Horse”  may become a “Race Horse.”

Tagged , , , , ,

Does the Bull Market Have Room to Run?

From time to time we share the thoughts of prominent stock market analysts.  As the markets reach new heights, we scour the headlines and find prophets of gloom and doom just about everywhere.  We are by cautious by nature, but not given to hyperbole.

Here is the market as viewed by Brian Wesbury, Chief Economist at First Trust:

Now, the pessimists can’t stop talking about profits. Both S&P 500 reported earnings and the government’s economy-wide measure of corporate earnings are down 4.9% from a year ago.

In hindsight, corporate profits peaked in 2014, just like they did in 1978, 1988, 1997, and 2006. So, they say, a recession and bear market are on the way, just like the ones that followed those peaks in profits as well. It’s time to sell, again!

One problem with this theory is that it assumes the decline in profits is permanent. But profits have been hurt by the downdraft of energy prices, which crushed profits in that sector, while also hurting other related businesses. However, energy prices are rebounding while profits outside of energy are accelerating.

In addition, the ingredients for a recession are not yet there. Monetary policy is not tight, consumer and corporate balance sheets are healthy, and the recovery in home building has much further to go.

….

None of this means the stock market must go up today, or this week, or even in the year ahead. But it does bolster our case for a continuation of the bull market.

Quite an alternate view from many of the talking heads on CNBC.  If Wesbury is indeed right, the Bull Market has room to run.  In the meantime we’ll continue to invest with caution.  Like the Boy Scouts, we’re always prepared.  No one rings a bell when the market turns and we want to be positioned so that we will not be blindsided when it does.

If you are uncertain about what to do, contact us.  We’ll be glad to help.

Tagged , , ,

Norfolk Southern beats the street

From the AP:

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC) on Thursday reported first-quarter earnings of $387 million.

On a per-share basis, the Norfolk, Virginia-based company said it had profit of $1.29.

The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 97 cents per share.

The railroad posted revenue of $2.42 billion in the period, also surpassing Street forecasts. Three analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $2.4 billion.

Norfolk Southern shares have decreased slightly more than 2 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has risen slightly more than 2 percent. In the final minutes of trading on Thursday, shares hit $82.63, a decline of 19 percent in the last 12 months.

 

NSC shares rose 4.8% in after-hours trading.

 

Tagged , ,
%d bloggers like this: