Financial & Economic Items We're Tracking Now!
Of course, no single investor ever knows with absolute certainty where markets and the economy are heading, but learning how to analyze various information points is critical to long-term success as an investor. In this week’s flash briefing we will dive into the top four items we are tracking in an effort to further provide clarity to where markets and the economy may be heading.1. 2nd Quarter Earnings Reports
This week kicks off the Second Quarter Earnings season for companies here in the United States. Due to the vast impact of COVID-19 on our economy, this earning period will be important to provide an indication of how companies are dealing with the challenges of this environment.
It's important to note that there is an unusually high amount of uncertainty regarding how companies performed in the 2nd quarter due to more than 40% of the companies listed on the S&P 500 withdrawing their financial guidance.1
Companies issue financial guidance for an upcoming quarter for a variety of reasons – investors however use quarterly guidance as a gauge to indicate whether a company expects growth to continue or not. A company stock often moves based on whether a company outperforms or under-performs their financial guidance. As you may expect, if there is no financial guidance for a large portion of the S&P 500 and the broader stock market in general, then there is going to be a higher possibility of investors being surprised by a companies earnings.2. Increasing COVID-19 Case Numbers
In recent weeks there has been a surge in COVID-19 diagnoses as testing numbers have also increased. Based on the research we have been doing internally, there are a number of factors for the increase in these diagnoses, however I am not a infectious disease expert so I am going to avoid postulating on that topic. As a portfolio manager my primary concern is to identify the potential impact these increasing case numbers may have:
- Will states move back on their opening procedures?
Multiple states with case surges in the past few weeks have moved back in some form on their reopening plans. On Monday, July 12th the state of California made the decision to close all major public gathering places such as bars, gyms, and restaurants.2 Yesterday when this news hit, the stock market responded with a reversal of earlier gains.3 If lock down orders are reinstated we move further away from getting the United States economy back to full speed.
- How Will Business Operations be Affected?
Infections increase when people are in close contact to each other in an enclosed space. Unfortunately, many businesses, both large and small, operate in these exact environments. As case numbers surge these businesses will have to operate at limited capacity or potentially revert to their shelter in place operations which could further impede the overall economy & market push forward.3. Impending Government Stimulus
The enhanced unemployment benefits of an additional $600 per week is set to expire towards the end of July. With unemployment hovering around 11% currently there is increasing political banter that additional fiscal stimulus is required to bridge the gap. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin indicated at the end of last week that the current goal is to reach a stimulus agreement by the end of July. Party leaders on both sides of the aisle have indicated in recent days a desire to reach some form of agreement in this area. As you may expect, their thoughts on what is appropriate is quite different.4
Increased squabbling between the parties on this topic could potentially cause markets to get jittery. With 2020 being an election year and unemployment at such an elevated level neither party will want to appear overly negative on this topic. Developments in the coming weeks will give us a better indication of how the economy is faring and how the 2020 election race will be impacted.4. Large and Medium Size Banks' Fiscal Policy
We closely track how banks around the United States are handling their capital and various lines of business to garner a clearer indication of where the economy is heading. The past few weeks have been particularly interesting in this regard. We should have further information in the coming weeks during earnings. Broadly speaking, banks and the Federal Reserve appear to be girding their belts to protect their balance sheets and final lines for economic weakness in the months ahead. For example:
- Low Interest Rates Affecting Companies' Ability to Earn Higher Amounts on Loans
- Banks make more money on loans whenever interest rates are at higher levels. Due to the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates to insulate the economy banks are in turn seeing the margin they make on loans and deposits decrease. This in turn affects their overall profit and ability to operate in other business lines.
- Loan-Loss Provisions Increasing Cash on Hand
- Banks are required to project forward the amount of losses that they may see on the various loans that they have made. In turn they are required to have ample cash on hand to help protect themselves from those losses. Based on the current economic environment, banks and the Federal Reserve appear to indicate that defaults on loans will be increasing in the coming months.
- Federal Reserve Pausing Stock Buybacks Until at Least 3rd Quarter & Restricting Dividends
- To help the banks keep more cash on hand the Federal Reserve dictated that banks are not able to purchase back the shares of their stock for the foreseeable future. Additionally, banks are not able to increase the dividend that they are paying to shareholders. This seems to indicate that the Federal Reserve has concerns about banks' ability to make money in their various losses and expected increasing loan losses.5
The weeks ahead will help provide our team with a clearer understanding of where companies and our government believe we are economically. This information will impact the way that we manage portfolios and begin making plans for future adjustments. There is always much to learn as we analyze the current news of the day. Interesting times to say the least!
Creekmur Wealth Advisors may be reached at 866-358-4441 or Info@Creekmurwealth.com.