As the European Central Bank decided to cut interest rates to spur economic activity, a report from analysts at S&P Capital IQ noted that the outlook for the U.S. economy “is bright.”
And in a just-released report gauging the mood of consumers, the sentiment is at its highest level since the Great Recession, which bodes well for spring retail sales.
“The combination of sustained U.S. job creation, declining unemployment, rising hourly wage growth, elevated consumer confidence, and healthy household credit conditions provides a solid foundation backing the outlook for the U.S. economy and corporate profits throughout 2016,” said Michael Thompson, managing director at S&P Investment Advisory Services.
But in the political arena, the central bank’s decision is going to erode U.S. jobs and economic prosperity, said Republican front-runner presidential candidate Donald Trump on CNBC this morning. Job growth and income inequality as well as the need for investing in U.S. manufacturing has also been key campaign rhetoric on both sides of the aisle since last fall.
In the S&P report, the analysts said that “U.S. recession anxiety continues to subside” and noted that the fear of an economic downturn “started with the January retail sales report, but existing home sales, the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM’s) Purchasing Managers’ Indices (PMIs)” and recent jobs reports are now “exceeding economists’ consensus forecasts.”
Thompson did acknowledge that low oil prices and a strong dollar will continue to impact the bottom line of U.S. companies. He said the S&P 500 earnings per share aggregate is facing a 7.6 percent decline this year. “The sharp decline in expected corporate earnings [will be driven] in large part by deeply depressed crude oil commodity prices and its drag on energy sector earnings, but the story is not limited to the energy or — to a lesser extent — the materials sectors,” he said. “Every sector besides telecommunication services has seen a steep sequential decline in expected earnings growth this past year.”
In the consumer discretionary sector, EPS growth is pegged at about 11 percent, which compares to about 19 percent one year ago. But as Thompson noted, 11 percent represents double-digit growth.
Regarding the impact of a strong dollar, U.S. consumer discretionary companies as well as U.S. retailer will be affected, although not as bad as other sectors.
“The drag from oil prices has been well documented, but the impact of the U.S. dollar on corporate earnings has been discussed less,” Thompson said. “The dollar appreciated 11 percent on average year over year in the fourth quarter, based on the U.S. Dollar Index. The S&P 500 generates 47.8 percent of sales overseas according to S&P Dow Jones Indices with the information technology, energy, materials, and health-care sectors having the largest exposure. Consumer staples has also been vocal in the impact from the strong dollar on sales in recent quarters as many of these companies are multinational in nature.”
Thompson said he believes the dollar’s “climb shaved an estimated 6 to 8 percentage points off top-line growth, [which will] ultimately [lead] to a 7 percent earnings reduction for the S&P 500.”
Regarding the mood of consumers, the Thomson Reuters/Ipsos U.S. Primary Consumer Sentiment Index rose 2.5 percent this month.
Jharonne Martis, director of consumer research, at Thompson Reuters, said the gains in the overall index “was echoed across all four of the component sub indices,” which includes investment conditions, jobs, current conditions and expectations.
Chris Jackson, vice president at Ipsos, said “consumer confidence continues to improve this month. With the stock market rallying in the last few weeks, people feel a little better about their investments. Coupled with continued solid showing in the jobs markets, Americans are feeling a bit better about the direction of the economy.”
Martis noted that the “improvement in consumer sentiment coincides with the earlier-than-usual Easter this year. Historically, we see a trend of higher retail sales within the month Easter falls in. The improvement in the job market is making consumers feel better about extending themselves. And thus, retail sales are expected to improve as the weather continues to warm up, and shoppers buy new spring merchandise ahead of the holiday.”