By Bryan Rich
February 9, 2017, 3:00pm EST Invest Alongside Billionaires For $297/Qtr
Stocks are hitting new record highs today. That includes the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq.
We’ve now seen about 60% of the earnings for Q4, and earnings are very good. As we’ve discussed, earnings guidance and consensus views are made to be beaten. Factset says that, on average, about 67% of S&P 500 companies beat the consensus view on earnings. For Q4, that number, as of last Friday, was 65%.
More importantly, the earnings growth rate for Q4 is +4.6% thus far. That’s better than the 3.1% that was predicted, coming into the earnings season. And that’s the first two consecutive quarters of year-over-year positive EPS growth in a couple of years.
So we have positive earnings surprises driving stocks higher. And finally, revenue growth is coming. After six consecutive quarters of revenue contraction, earnings for U.S. companies had a second consecutive quarter of growth. And the quarters ahead should be much better.
Clearly, in the weak growth environment, the focus has clearly been cutting costs, refinancing debt, selling non-core assets, and buying back shares. That’s all a recipe for juicing EPS, even though revenue growth is sluggish, if existent.
So for all of the people that are constantly hand wringing about the levels of the stock market, ask them this: What happens when you take these companies that are growing earnings by optimizing margins in a 1% growth world, and you give them 3%-4% economic growth? Earnings go up. What happens when you take a profitable company and cut the tax burden by 15 to 20 percentage points? Earnings go up.
When earnings go up, price to earnings goes down. And valuations can become very, very cheap.
We have companies that have been forced to streamline to survive. And now we’re in the early days of a regime shift, where tax cuts will work for them, deregulation will work for them, and a big infrastructure spend will pop demand, to actually fuel some revenue growth.
Below is a nice chart from Yardeni. You can see the flattish revenue growth, but earnings divergence over the past five years.
On the right hand axis, next year’s earnings on the S&P 500 are expected around $133. That doesn’t take into account the impact of a corporate tax cut, which Standard & Poors research has suggested could bump that number up to the mid $150s ($1.31 added for every 1% cut in the corporate tax rate). That would dramatically widen the revenue, earnings divergence — or make the closing of this gap that much more aggressive.
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