Pushin' Forward Back

by Jason Norris, CFA Executive Vice President of Research

The official start of earnings season kicks off next week and it looks like earnings for the broad market are going to be negative five percent. There are two main culprits for this. First, the recent strength in the U.S. dollar took large multinational companies by surprise, which resulted in major revenue and earnings revisions lower in 2015. The S&P 500, a standard large cap equity benchmark, has approximately 35-40 percent of its constituent’s revenues outside the United States. Therefore, a major strengthening of the U.S. dollar (see the below chart) results in U.S. goods being more expensive.


For example, if $1.00 = 0.80 Euro, then if a U.S. manufacturer were selling a $100 item in Europe, customers there would be spending 80 Euros. With the recent strengthening, $1.00 is now the equivalent of 0.95 Euros, thus that same $100 item would cost 95 Euros. This is a major price increase and headwind for U.S. exporters. We saw this instance with companies like Microsoft, Caterpillar, and more. On the other hand, the weakening Euro makes those products cheaper in the U.S. Thus, we believe European exporters should stand to benefit from this, and will be a catalyst to stimulating growth in Europe. As such, we recently increased our exposure to the International markets.

Down In a Hole

The other culprit for the major negative revisions for earnings is the reduction in the price of oil. In the past six months, the price of oil has been cut in half which is having a dramatic effect on the earnings in the oil patch. The year-over-year change in energy earnings in the first quarter is a negative 65 percent. Excluding this area of the market, earnings are forecasted to grow by three percent.


These two attributes are setting up for a tough year for headline growth numbers. Earnings growth estimates have declined from seven to two percent for 2015. However, if you exclude Energy, earnings growth should come in closer to nine percent. Our belief is the overall economy is improving and the consumer will be the main beneficiary. While recent consumer spending data has been mixed, we are seeing an improving trend, particularly in consumer confidence. Therefore, continued low interest rates and energy prices throughout 2015 are a tax cut for consumers, and with a tightening labor market, we expect to see an increase in wages. This is all setting up to be a good year for “Main Street.”

Our Takeaways for the Week: 

  • The strong dollar and low oil prices are a headwind for US earnings growth
  • Main Street will be the winner in 2015