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STUDIES - MACRO pdf      
10-28-15 STUDIES
ANALYTICS
Oct. 25, 2015 8:11 p.m. ET

U.S. Companies Warn of Slowing Economy

Big firms to post first decline in both earnings and sales since the recession

Quarterly profits and revenue at big American companies are poised to decline for the first time since the recession, as some industrial firms warn of a pullback in spending.

From railroads to manufacturers to energy producers, businesses say they are facing a protracted slowdown in production, sales and employment that will spill into next year. Some of them say they are already experiencing a downturn.

“The industrial environment’s in a recession. I don’t care what anybody says,” Daniel Florness, chief financial officer of Fastenal Co., told investors and analysts earlier this month. A third of the top 100 customers for Fastenal’s nuts, bolts and other factory and construction supplies have cut their spending by more than 10% and nearly a fifth by more than 25%, Mr. Florness said.

Caterpillar Inc. last week reduced its profit forecast, citing weak demand for its heavy equipment, and 3M Co., whose products range from kitchen sponges to adhesives used in automobiles, said it would lay off 1,500 employees, or 1.7% of its total, as sales growth sagged for a wide range of wares.

The weakness is overshadowing pockets of growth in sectors such as aerospace and technology.

Industrial companies are being buffeted on multiple fronts. The slump in energy prices has gutted demand for drilling equipment and supplies. Economic expansion is slowing in China and major emerging markets such as Brazil, which U.S. companies have relied on for sales growth. And the dollar’s strength also has eroded overseas profits.

The drag on earnings and sluggish growth projections for next year come as the Federal Reserve considers raising interest rates for the first time in nine years, and could add momentum to those in favor of postponing any rate increase until next year.

Profit and revenue are falling in tandem for the first time in six years, with a third of S&P 500 companies reporting so far. Analysts expect the index’s companies to book a 2.8% decline in per-share earnings from last year’s third quarter, according to Thomson Reuters.

Sales are on pace to fall 4%—the third straight quarterly decline. The last time sales and profits fell in the same quarter was in the third period of 2009.

At some companies, foreign-currency effects hurt results significantly. Consumer-products maker Kimberly-Clark Corp. predicted that currency swings would slash earnings by 25% this year, while Johnson & Johnson said that the dollar’s moves would reduce sales growth by almost 7 percentage points this year, even without further fluctuations.

This week, another third of the S&P 500 are expected to report their results, including such giants as Apple Inc., United Parcel Service Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp.

Much of the anticipated decline stems from the hard-hit energy industry, where sales are expected to drop by more than a third from a year earlier and profits are likely to plummet 65%, Thomson Reuters says, based on analysts’ estimates. Basic-materials companies face a 17% drop in profits, and industrial sales are expected to decline more than 5%.

United Technologies Corp., which makes Otis elevators and Carrier air conditioners, said it expects profits to be flat or down in three of its four operating segments next year, despite strength in its U.S. operations. Chief Financial Officer Akhil Johri told investors last week that the Otis division’s sales in China fell 19% in the third quarter as commercial construction slumped.

Other companies voiced similar concerns. “If you look at kind of the broad industrial-production index, you see industrial production sequentially coming down,” said Fredrik Eliasson, chief sales and marketing officer at railroad operator CSX Corp.

CSX is scaling back some operations in response to declining coal shipments as power plants switch fuels, eliminating nearly 500 jobs in Corbin, Ky., and Erwin, Tenn. In the current quarter, the company plans to reduce its average head count by 2% from the third-quarter level.

U.S. manufacturing production rose in September at its slowest pace in more than two years, the Institute for Supply Management reported earlier this month. Economic activity at 11 industries tracked by the group contracted during the month, while just seven reported growth. Meantime, manufacturers told ISM that customer inventories remained high, contributing to a slowdown in new orders.

Some investors and analysts worry that companies accustomed to boosting earnings by cutting costs, repurchasing shares and refinancing debt will soon have to face the reality of worsening sales. “The ability of corporations to take a 1% to 2% revenue line [gain] and turn it into 5% to 6% profit growth is waning,” said Charlie Smith, chief investment officer of Fort Pitt Capital Group. “They’ve run out of rabbits to pull out.”

Still, cost-cutting continues. Companies from Twitter Inc. and Biogen Inc. to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Monsanto Co. have announced job cuts in recent weeks. That could boost the U.S. unemployment rate, which ended September at 5.1%, its lowest point since April 2008.

“Things are definitely a bit shakier than they were several months ago,” said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank. But, he added, “the U.S. is fundamentally in decent shape.”

Indeed, low fuel prices have boosted U.S. car sales and buoyed airlines’ results, and the U.S. construction market remains robust. And, even among manufacturers, the aerospace industry is doing well. Technology giants Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. posted strong results on Thursday, as did Google parent Alphabet Inc.

Such strength suggests that the broader economy is unlikely to succumb to the industrial sector’s gloom, especially given robust profit margins, said Jeremy Zirin, chief U.S. equity strategist for wealth management at UBS. “The broad mosaic of data suggests that the U.S. economy is still doing OK,” Mr. Zirin said. “This isn’t a very bullish view, it’s just saying things aren’t as bad as feared.”

Others worry that the slowdown is spreading to consumer businesses. Wal-Mart recently warned its sales this year are likely to be flat, down from projection of as much as 2% growth, and cut its earnings forecast for next year as it raises wages. The retailer blamed the strong dollar for the weakening sales growth.

And truckload carriers have warned that they aren’t witnessing the usual uptick in retailer demand as the holiday season approaches, thanks to stubbornly high inventories, said Alex Vecchio, a transportation analyst at Morgan Stanley. “Transportation companies are typically a leading indicator, and our data is not good,” Mr. Vecchio said.

 

MOST CRITICAL TIPPING POINT ARTICLES THIS WEEK - Oct 25th, 2015 - Oct 31st, 2015      
BOND BUBBLE     1
RISK REVERSAL - WOULD BE MARKED BY: Slowing Momentum, Weakening Earnings, Falling Estimates     2
GEO-POLITICAL EVENT     3

China Unleashes The Jingoist Rhetoric: "If U.S. Ships Stop, We Should Lock Them By Fire-Control Radar"

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/27/2015 - 19:14

"In face of the US harassment, Beijing should deal with Washington tactfully and prepare for the worst. This can convince the White House that China, despite its unwillingness, is not frightened to fight a war with the US in the region, and is determined to safeguard its national interests and dignity. Beijing ought to carry out anti-harassment operations. We should first track the US warships. If they, instead of passing by, stop for further actions, it is necessary for us to launch electronic interventions, and even send out warships, lock them by fire-control radar and fly over the US vessels."

Furious China Summons U.S. Ambassador, Slams Obama Decision To "Threaten Peace" With Warship Challenge

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/27/2015 - 08:25

Update: CHINA SUMMONS U.S. AMBASSADOR OVER SOUTH CHINA SEA PATROL: CCTV

"The behavior of the U.S. warship threatened China’s sovereignty and national interest, endangered the safety of the island’s staff and facilities, and harmed the regional peace and stability."

 

10-27-15   3

GEO-POLITICAL EVENT

 

 

10-27-15   3

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/26/2015

It's On: Obama Sends Destroyer To Chinese Islands, China Vows Military Response

Update: According to reports in on Monday evening, the USS Lassen has indeed sailed within 12 nautical miles of China's islands in the Spratlys.

As WSJ notes, "an American defense official confirmed Monday that the U.S. Navy ship navigated through the waters around at least one of the land masses to which China lays claim within the Spratly chain of islands in the South China Sea, crossing an area that China maintains is part of its sovereign territory." 

WSJ also reiterates that this isn't likely to be a one-off event. As noted below, most "experts" believe that in order for this to be effective from a deterrence standpoint, the US will need to step up the patrols, presumably in an effort to prove to Beijing that the Pentagon is "serious", whatever that means in this context. 

The ball is now squarely in China's court. The PLA has already promised to "stand up and use force" in the event its territorial sovereignty is violated. The question now is whether Beijing will back down and concede that "sovereignty" somehow means something different with regard to the islands than it does with respect to the mainland or whether Xi will stick to his guns (no pun intended) and take a pot shot at a US destroyer. 

Earlier:

For anyone who might still be somehow unaware, the US is currently in a superpower staring match with both Russia and China. The conflict in Syria has put Moscow back on the geopolitical map (so to speak), creating an enormous amount of tension with Washington whose regional allies have been left to look on in horror as Russian airstrikes and an Iranian ground incursion dash hopes of ousting President Bashar al-Assad. 

Meanwhile, in The South China Sea, Beijing has built 3,000 acres of new sovereign territory atop reefs in the Spratlys and although the reclamation effort itself isn’t unique, the scope of it most certainly is and Washington’s friends in the South Pacific are crying foul.

Beijing has continually insisted that it doesn’t intend to use the islands as military outposts, but the construction of runways and ports seems to tell a different story and so, Washington felt compelled to check things out over the summer by sending a Poseidon spy plane complete with a CNN crew to the area. Once the PLA spotted the plane the situation escalated quickly with the Chinese Navy telling US pilots to “Go Now!” 

After that, an intense war of words developed with Defense Secretary Ash Carter insisting that the US would sail and fly anywhere it pleased and Beijing assuring the US that sailing within 12 nautical miles of the islands would prompt a harsh response from the PLA. 

For weeks, the US was rumored to have been planning a freedom of navigation exercise in the Spratlys which, as we’ve pointed out several times this month, amounts to sailing by the islands just to see if China will shoot. 

Now, according to CNN, Obama has given the green light and the ships may sail within 24 hours: 

The US navy is poised to start freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea in a high-stakes effort to push back against Chinese territorial claims over artificial islands in the disputed waters.

In a move that will enrage Beijing, the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, will sail inside the 12-nautical mile zones of two man-made islands — Subi and Mischief reefs — that China has built in the contested Spratly Island chain. A senior US defence official said it would sail through the area in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

China has repeatedly warned that it would not tolerate any effort to violate what it considers its territory. Earlier this month, a senior Chinese naval officer said the People’s Liberation Army would hand a “head-on blow” to any foreign forces that violated Chinese sovereignty. His comments came after the Financial Times reported that the US was poised to launch its operations.

The manoeuvre will mark the first time since 2012 that the US navy has sailed through the 12-nautical mile zone surrounding any islands claimed by China. It is aimed at demonstrating that Washington does not recognise any territorial claims over artificial islands in the South China Sea.

It's also worth noting that should the US manage to get away with this without sparking a shooting war with the Chinese, it now looks as though Washington is leaning toward making this a regular patrol. Here's a bit of color from Reuters out over the weekend: 

A range of security experts said Washington's so-called freedom of navigation patrols would have to be regular to be effective, given Chinese ambitions to project power deep into maritime Southeast Asia and beyond.

"This cannot be a one-off," said Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

"The U.S. navy will have to conduct these kinds of patrols on a regular basis to reinforce their message."

But China would likely resist attempts to make such U.S. actions routine, some said, raising the political and military stakes. China's navy could for example try to block or attempt to surround U.S. vessels, they said, risking an escalation.

(USS Lassen)

Here are the latest visuals from Subi and Mischief (the two islands mentioned above):

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this borders on the insane. Here we have both Washington and Beijing risking an outright military confrontation over what amount to a couple of sandcastles and while there's probably some truth to the contention that China has plans for the islands that go beyond growing plants, building lighthouses, and raising pigs, it's not as though the PLA is going to invade The Philippines so at the end of the day, this looks like another example of what Vladimir Putin recently suggested is evidence that the world is losing its collective mind.

 

CHINA BUBBLE     4
JAPAN - DEBT DEFLATION     5

EU BANKING CRISIS

   

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