Corporate Earnings in 2014
Corporate earnings, also referred to as “company earnings” and “corporate profits,” is the amount of money a company makes in certain period of time. The price/earnings multiple is still the most common tool used to value a company. The stock market values a company based on the amount of money (earnings and profit) the company has after all expenses, including taxes, have been paid.
In a stock market where stocks are traded at an average of 12 times earnings, a company making $1.00 a share per year would be valued at $12.00. All things being equal, the more money a public company makes, the higher its stock price.
Income inequality plays an important role in whether or not an economy experiences economic growth. If a small number of people earn the majority of the wages in a country, that sets the country up for a disastrous situation. What this essentially does is create a significant disparity. You can expect to see certain businesses do really well while others struggle severely, which is the result of those who are earning fewer wages spending less and those who are earning a significant portion spending more.
Sadly, this is what we see in the U.S. economy. Income inequality is increasing. It suggests economic growth is a farfetched idea.
According to a study by the Paris School of Economics, in the U.S. economy, the richest 0.1% earns nine percent of the national income. The bottom 90% of Americans—the majority of the population—only earn 50% of the national income. (Source: Arends, B., “Inequality worse now than on ‘Downton Abbey,’” MarketWatch, February 27, 2014.)
Former Federal Reserve chairman Allan Greenspan said, “I consider income inequality the most dangerous part of what’s going on in the United States.” (Source: Well, D., “Greenspan: Income Inequality ‘Most Dangerous’ Trend in US,” Moneynews, February 25, 2014.)
Income inequality in the U.S. economy is very evident, no matter where you look.
As I mentioned earlier, when there is income inequality in a country, you can expect certain businesses to do poorly. For example, consider Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE/WMT)—one of the biggest retailers in the U.S. economy known for its low prices. Due to the U.S. government pulling back on its food stamp programs, the company is worried. The executive … Read More
When you are looking at your portfolio and considering making adjustments, it’s important to take into account not only the current environment, but what potential changes could occur in the future that can alter your investment strategy.
Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about:
We all know that Japan has been trying to lower its currency in an attempt to stimulate its economy.
What’s a side effect of a weaker economy? Higher import prices, and since Japan relies almost entirely on imported energy, costs are rising significantly, which is hurting the average Japanese citizen since wages are not increasing.
Just recently, Japan announced that it is now drafting a plan that will reopen nuclear power plants, allowing the country to rely on nuclear power for their core power production once again. (Source: Iwata, M., “Japan sees key role for nuclear power,” Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2014.)
We all know about the horrible disaster that occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, but as much as Japan doesn’t want nuclear power, the country is finding that it has no alternative.
This is a significantly bullish scenario for uranium stocks. Obviously, following the disaster, corporate earnings for uranium stocks fell sharply along with the price of the commodity. The natural investment strategy was to avoid this sector until there was some clarity about the potential for a renewed interest in uranium, which should help drive corporate earnings.
It appears we are certainly turning the corner, as 17 nuclear power plants are currently being screened to be restarted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. In total, Japan has 48 nuclear reactors, which … Read More
Key stock indices were going through a rough patch from the beginning of the year until early February. Now, they seem to have some momentum to the upside. With this, investors are asking what kind of upside potential is possible. Will the key stock indices continue to increase and break above their previous highs, or are we due for another sell-off like the one we saw earlier, and only then will we see some good buying points?
Let me begin by saying what I have said many times in these pages before: 2013 was a stellar year for key stock indices, but now they need to breathe a little. The key stock indices may go above their all-time highs made at the end of last year, but the move isn’t going to be as robust. You might see a slow, dreadful move to the upside.
If this scenario does play out—key stock indices moving slowly and breaking above their all-time highs—the fundamentals are suggesting it won’t be a significant move.
Companies on the key stock indices are warning about their corporate earnings. For example, 66 companies on the S&P 500 have issued negative guidance about their corporate earnings in the first quarter of this year. (Source: “Slightly larger cuts to earnings estimates than average at mid-point of Q1 2014,” FactSet, February 14, 2014.) Corporate earnings estimates by analysts are also being slashed. Mind you, we are just in the second month of the quarter.
Major names on the key stock indices are reporting horrible sales. Consider Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE/CAT), a major industrial goods manufacturer, for example. The company reported its … Read More
I was reading an article that suggested investors are underestimating the extent that U.S. corporate profits could grow in 2014. And that the only reason the U.S. economy reported disappointing retail sales and weak jobs numbers and manufacturing data was because of the harsh winter weather. (Source: Shmuel, J., “Are EPS estimates currently too low?” Financial Post, February 18, 2014.)
Fortunately, so the story goes, the economy is so red-hot that once the snow thaws, investors will be rewarded with solid quarter-over-quarter corporate earnings growth. This suggests the weather has not just blinded investors to the fact that the economy has recovered (which it hasn’t), but that we are also so short-sighted that we can’t see the great gains waiting for us just around the corner—because if there’s one thing investors lack, it’s a desire to make money on the stock market…
I think investors are losing faith in Wall Street’s earnings potential because the corporations that go into making up the S&P 500 continue to warn us that their earnings are not going to be as great as they had hoped. And it’s not as if this is a new phenomenon.
Throughout 2013, as the S&P 500 marched steadily higher, an increasingly larger number of companies revised their earnings guidance lower each quarter. During the first quarter of 2013, 78% of S&P 500 companies that provided preannouncements issued negative earnings guidance; the second quarter came in at 81%; a record 83% of S&P 500 companies issued negative earnings guidance in the third quarter; and another record 88% did so in the fourth quarter.
For a country that is supposedly … Read More
We see there’s a significant amount of economic news mounting against the argument that key stock indices will go higher this year. We see major companies on the key stock indices reporting corporate earnings that are dismal to say the very least. We see indicators of prosperity suggesting the opposite is likely going to be true for the U.S. economy. Lastly, we also see troubles developing very quickly in the global economy.
First on the line are the corporate earnings of companies on the key stock indices—which is hands down one of the main factors that drive these indices higher. We see companies showing signs of stress. Consider General Motors Company (NYSE/GM), for example; the company’s corporate earnings declined 22% in 2013 from the previous year. (Source: “GM reports lower-than-expected 4Q earnings,” Yahoo! Finance, February 6, 2014.)
Some might call this a story of the past; we need to look at what the future looks like instead. Sadly, going forward, companies on the key stock indices and analysts look worried as well. Consider this: so far, 57 S&P 500 companies have issued negative corporate earnings guidance, while only 14 have issued positive guidance. At the same time, analysts’ expectations are coming down as well. On December 31, the consensus estimate expected S&P 500 earnings to grow by 4.3%; now, these expectations have come down to 1.5%. (Source: “S&P 500 Earnings Insight,” FactSet, February 7, 2014.)
Looking at the broader U.S. economy, it’s not moving in favor of the key stock indices, either—the economic data isn’t looking very promising.
Industrial production in the U.S. economy declined in January from the previous … Read More