4 Themes From 1Q Earnings: Confidence, Price Increases, Cash And China

S&P 500 Earnings CEO confidence

Now that the first quarter earnings reports are starting to wrap up, Goldman Sachs analysts say they see four major themes that have emerged from earnings calls this time around. They say managements seem more upbeat now thanks to improving economic conditions. Also executives are looking for better ways to use their cash.

Corporate confidence on the rise

In their S&P 500 Beige Book dated May 9, 2014, analyst David J. Kostin and his team they’ve noticed that this time, management at most companies seem more positive compared to in the previous quarter. They say business activity has shown sizes of accelerating after severe weather negatively impacted activities during the first quarter. Also uncertainties about economic policies have begun to move away.

Some of the examples they provide include Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE:WFC). Specifically, they said Starbucks management highlighted “unprecedented store closure” and severe weather as impacting their first quarter sales. Wells Fargo management said they’re “optimistic” as the housing market continues improving. They think the value percentages will increase this year, although not as much as last year.

Q1 Earnings: Price increases could be coming

The Goldman Sachs team also said consumer price inflation is still low and that their U.S. economists are predicting just a “modest” increase this year. However, company managements seem to be more confident about price increases than they were in previous quarters, especially if their input costs increase.

Some of the examples they provide include Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) and Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE:YUM). They report that Chipotle noted food inflation and so decided to raise its prices. Intel said it sees “a pretty benign pricing environment,” while Yum! Brands noted currency exchange rate headwinds and cost inflation. As a result, the fast food chain will be raising selling prices in some areas and controlling its overhead spending.

Use of cash on the rise

They also noted that as companies see the cash on their balance sheet rise, they’ve begun to look for things to do with it. Activist shareholders have also had an effect on this subject, as has growing confidence from management. Many companies are raising their cash returns, and growth in dividends has been solid. However, they also note that companies have been highlighting their share repurchase plans and capital expenditures spending.

Some examples they provide include Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM). They note that Apple and JPMorgan highlighted their share repurchases. Google noted that it is spending “quite a bit” on capital expenditures.

Momentum seen in China

The Goldman Sachs team also said managements are still positive on their business momentum in China even though equities have performed poorly in emerging markets. Investors have also been concerned about the pace of growth in China’s gross domestic product.

Some of the companies they provide include Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAP), Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) and General Electric Company (NYSE:GE). Apple management highlighted their quarterly revenue record of nearly $10 billion for the quarter, while Abbott said China “is not a slow market.” GE said orders in China rose 13% in the quarter and other emerging markets, which increased 10% overall.

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About the Author

Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones was a television news producer for eight years. She produced the morning news programs for the NBC affiliates in Evansville, Indiana and Huntsville, Alabama and spent a short time at the CBS affiliate in Huntsville. She has experience as a writer and public relations expert for a wide variety of businesses. Michelle has been with ValueWalk since 2012 and is now our editor-in-chief. Email her at [email protected]

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