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Goldman's 4 Word Summary Of Q3 Earnings Season: "Adequate Earnings, Dismal Sales"

Haven't bothered to check in on the third quarter earnings season (which at this rate will mark the first two back-to-back quarters of earnings declines since 2009, aka an earnings recession)? Then here is the 4 word summary from Goldman Sachs: "adequate earnings, dismal sales."

With results from 341 companies (77% of total market cap) in hand, the 3Q reporting season thus far can be summed up as simply as “adequate earnings, dismal sales.” Earnings have been in line with history, with 48% of firms surprising on the bottom line (above the historical average of 46%), for an average EPS surprise of 4% versus the historical average of 5%. On the other hand, sales results have been disappointing, a function of slowing economic growth and a stronger dollar. Just 21% of companies beat consensus revenue estimates by more than one standard deviation, well below the 10-year average of 32%. Excluding Energy, 49% of companies has surprised on EPS, while 20% has surprised on the top line.

If companies beat on earnings do they also beat on revenues?

Stocks delivering positive sales surprises have been more likely to surprise on earnings, but a top-line shortfall has not necessarily led to a bottom-line miss. 21% of firms has posted positive 3Q sales surprises, while 14% of stocks beat on both the top and bottom line, meaning firms that beat on sales were also likely to beat on earnings (see Exhibit 1). Stocks surprising on both the top and bottom-line include AMZN, JNPR, NOC. Interestingly, 71% of companies that beat on earnings either negatively surprised on revenue, or reported sales results in-line with expectations, suggesting that margins have surprised to the upside thus far.

So as corporate teams seek to push margins even higher in the coming quarters, there will be even more layoffs in the coming quarters, and even more disappointing employment numbers... which is great news for a "lower for longer" addicted market.

What is the cause of the ongoing revenue slowdown, aside from lack of capital investment of course? The strong dollar is the biggest culprit, a dollar which keeps getting stronger.

FX headwinds and a slowing US economy have caused positive and negative revenue surprises to diverge significantly from historical averages. Through the first 22 days of 3Q earnings season, only 21% of companies has positively surprised on revenue, nearly 12 percentage points below the 10-year average at this point in the earnings season. Around one third of S&P 500 companies have disappointed on revenue, significantly above the 21% average (see Exhibit 2).

Historically, as positive sales surprises become scarce, investors are more likely to reward beats on the top line (see Exhibit 3). This trend has been evident during 3Q reporting season. 73% of companies surprising on revenue outperformed the S&P 500 the day following the announcement, the second best hit-rate in the past decade. 3Q sales for NKE, which was aided by surprisingly strong revenue growth in China, beat consensus expectations and subsequently outperformed the S&P 500 by nearly 900 bp during the following day. In contrast, companies surprising on earnings have outperformed the market 64% of the time.

For those wondering if the weak top line number means a slowing economy, the answer is yes.

Disappointing sales results reflect below-average 3Q economic growth. GDP growth equaled just 1.5% in 3Q. Solid growth from  consumer-facing sectors was offset by a drag from inventories. While real personal consumption expenditures increased by 3.2%, inventory accumulation subtracted 1.4 percentage points from growth.

It's not bad news for all though: the biggest companies will survive and will likely get even bigger.

Company results thus far suggest the largest S&P 500 companies have weathered the challenging growth environment better than their smaller counterparts. 58% of S&P 500 market cap has positively surprised on earnings versus an equal-weighted average of 48%, implying better-thanexpected results from larger companies. In fact, 66% of the 50 largest companies in the S&P 500 has beat earnings expectations versus 45% for the remainder of the index. 32% of the 50 largest companies beat on sales versus 19% for the remainder of the S&P 500 (See Exhibit 4).

... something the market has noticed and rewarded.

Better-than-expected earnings results for larger companies have coincided with large-cap outperformance. As measured via the Russell 1000 versus the Russell 2000, large-cap stocks have outperformed small-cap stocks by 257 bp since the end of 3Q. Looking beneath the surface, Consumer Discretionary and Health Care sectors in the Russell 1000 have crushed the Russell 2000 sector indexes, both by more than 400 bp.

Finally here is the full sector and industry performance broken down in various periods:

* * *

Finally, this is where Goldman sees the S&P trading in 1 year: "We expect the S&P 500 will likely trade at 2075 in 12 months (-0.7%).

 

 
MOST CRITICAL TIPPING POINT ARTICLES THIS WEEK - Nov. 1st, 2015 - Nov 7th, 2015      
BOND BUBBLE     1
RISK REVERSAL - WOULD BE MARKED BY: Slowing Momentum, Weakening Earnings, Falling Estimates     2
RISK REVERSAL - WOULD BE MARKED BY: Slowing Momentum, Weakening Earnings, Falling Estimates 10-29-15 GLOBAL RISK SIGNALS 2
GEO-POLITICAL EVENT     3
CHINA BUBBLE     4
CHINA BUBBLE     4

 

One Analyst Says China's Banking Sector Is Sitting On A $3 Trillion Neutron Bomb

Tue, 03 Nov 2015

To be sure, we’ve long contended that official data on bad loans at Chinese banks is even less reliable than NBS GDP prints. Indeed, the lengths Beijing goes to in order to obscure the extent to which banks’ balance sheets are in peril is truly something to behold and much like the deficient deflator math which may be causing the country to habitually overstate GDP growth, it’s not even clear that China could report the real numbers if it wanted to. 

We took an in-depth look at the problem in “How China's Banks Hide Trillions In Credit Risk: Full Frontal”, and we’ve revisited the issue on a number of occasions noting in August that according to a transcript of an internal meeting of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, bad loans jumped CNY322.2 billion in H1 to CNY1.8 trillion, a 36% increase. Of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In other words, that comes from a government agency and although the scope of the increase sounds serious, it still translates into an NPL ratio of just 1.82%. Here’s a look at the “official” numbers (note that when one includes doubtful accounts, the ratio jumps to somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-4%):

Source: Fitch

There are any number of reasons why those figures don’t even come close to approximating reality. For instance, there’s Beijing’s habit of compelling banks to roll over bad loans, and then there’s China’s massive (and by “massive” we mean CNY17 trillion) wealth management product industry which, when coupled with some creative accounting, allows Chinese banks to hold some 40% of credit risk off balance sheet.

Well as time goes on, and as market participants scrutinize the data coming out of the world’s second most important economy, quite a few analysts are beginning to take a closer look at the NPL data for Chinese banks. Indeed, if Beijing continues to move toward “allowing” defaults to occur (even at SOEs) and if China’s transition from smokestack economy to a consumption and services-driven model continues to put pressure on borrowers from the manufacturing sector, the situation is likely to deteriorate quickly. If you needed evidence of just how precarious things truly are, look no further than a recent report from Macquarie which showed that a quarter of Chinese firms with debt are currently unable to cover their annual interest expense (as you might imagine, it's even worse for commodities firms). 

Just two weeks after we highighted the Macquarie report, we took a look at research conducted by Hong-Kong based CLSA. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Chinese banks' bad debts ratio could be as high 8.1%, a whopping 6 times higher than the official 1.5% NPL level reported by China's banking regulator. 

We called that revelation China's "neutron bomb" but it turns out we may have jumped the gun. According to Hong Kong-based "Autonomous Research", the real figure may be closer to 21% when one takes into account the aforementioned shadow banking sector. Here's more from Bloomberg:

Corporate investigator Violet Ho never put a lot of faith in the bad loan numbers reported by China’s banks.

Crisscrossing provinces from Shandong to Xinjiang, she’s seen too much -- from the shell game of moving assets between affiliated companies to disguise the true state of their finances to cover-ups by bankers loath to admit that loans they made won’t be recovered.

The amount of bad debt piling up in China is at the center of a debate about whether the country will continue as a locomotive of global growth or sink into decades of stagnation like Japan after its credit bubble burst. Bank of China Ltd. reported on Thursday its biggest quarterly bad-loan provisions since going public in 2006.

Charlene Chu, who made her name at Fitch Ratings making bearish assessments of the risks from China’s credit explosion since 2008, is among those crunching the numbers.

While corporate investigator Ho relies on her observations from hitting the road, Chu and her colleagues at

Autonomous Research in Hong Kong take a top-down approach. They estimate how much money is being wasted after the nation began getting smaller and smaller economic returns on its credit from 2008. Their assessment is informed by data from economies such as Japan that have gone though similar debt explosions.

While traditional bank loans are not Chu’s prime focus -- she looks at the wider picture, including shadow banking -- she says her work suggests that nonperforming loans may be at 20 percent to 21 percent, or even higher.


“A financial crisis is by no means preordained, but if losses don’t manifest in financial sector losses, they will do so via slowing growth and deflation, as they did in Japan,” said Chu. “China is confronting a massive debt problem, the scale of which the world has never seen.”

As a reminder, here's a look at the scope of the "problem" Chu is describing:

 

And here's a bit more on special mention loans and the ubiquitous practice of "evergreening":

Slicing and dicing the official loan numbers, Christine Kuo, a senior vice president of Moody’s Investors Service in Hong Kong, focuses on trends in debts overdue for 90 days, rather than those classified as “nonperforming.” Another tactic some analysts use is to add nonperforming debt to “special mention” loans, those that are overdue but not yet classified as impaired, yielding a rate of 5.1 percent.

Banks’ bad-loan numbers are capped by “evergreening,” the practise of rolling over debt that isn’t repaid on time, according to experts including Keith Pogson, a Hong Kong-based senior partner at Ernst & Young LLP. Pogson was involved in restructuring debt at Chinese banks in 1998, when their NPL ratios were as high as 25 percent.

So let's just be clear: if 8% is a "neutron bomb", a 21% NPL ratio in China is the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. Here's why: 

If one very conservatively assumes that loans are about half of the total asset base (realistically 60-70%), and applies an 20% NPL to this number instead of the official 1.5% NPL estimate, the capital shortfall is a staggering $3 trillion. 

That, as we suggested three weeks ago, may help to explain why round after round of liquidity injections (via RRR cuts, LTROs, and various short- and medium-term financing ops) haven't done much to boost the credit impulse. In short, banks may be quietly soaking up the funds not to lend them out, but to plug a giant, $3 trillion, solvency shortfall. 

In the end, we would actually venture to suggest that the real figure is probably far higher than 20%. There's no way to get a read on how the country's vast shadow banking complex plays into this but when you look at the numbers, it's almost inconceivable to imagine that banks aren't staring down sour loans at least on the order of a couple of trillion. 

To the PBoC we say, "good luck plugging that gap" and to the rest of the world we say "beware, the engine of global growth and trade may be facing a pile of bad loans the size of Germany's GDP."

We close with the following from Kroll's senior managing director in Hong Kong Violet Ho (quoted above):

"A credit report for a Chinese company is not worth the paper it’s written on.”

 

Did Something Just Snap In China: Total SOE Debt Rises By $1 Trillion In One Month

Tue, 03 Nov 2015

We found something unexpected when skimming through the website of China's finance ministry.

While most China pundits keep close track of China's monthly loan creation and, especially these days, its Total Social Financing number to get a sense of what, if any, credit is being created outside of conventional lending channels within China's shadow banking system, one just as critical please to keep track of Chinese credit is the monthly report on national state-owned and state holding enterprises. 

Such as this one from October 22, which reports that as of September 30, total liabilities of state-owned enterprises had risen to 77.7 trillion yuan. Why is this notable? Because the monthly update just preceding it,reported a total debt figure of "only" 71.8 trillion yuan: a whopping increase of almost CNY 6 trillion, or USD $1 trillion, in just one month.

This is the biggest monthly increase by a massive margin among China's SOE by orders of magnitude, and yet just to get a sense of the magnitude of debt held at China's SOEs, even this record monthly increase is not even 10% of the total debt held by China's state-owned enterprises which stood at CNY78 trillion or USD $12 trillion at the end of September, more than the total Chinese GDP.

What can explain this snap? There has been very little commentary on this particular surge aside from a report posted on Wall Street.cn, and translated by Chiecon, which reports the following:

China’s state owned enterprises added almost 6 trillion yuan (around 1 trillion dollars) of debt in September, described by Luo Yunfeng, an analyst at Essence Securities, as “an unprecedented increase in leverage”. This means that not only is the government abandoning its deleverage policy, it is actually increasing leverage.

According to Luo “it’s possible that debt that was originally classified as government debt, has been reallocated as SOE debt”.

This might be a reflection of how the government plans to tackle its massive debt. Luo mentions that one of the obstacles to managing government debt is that it remains difficult to draw a line between government and SOE debt. The crux of of current reform plans to increase the role of market forces is aimed at resolving this issue.

If it really is the case of shifting government debt to SOEs, then it represents a step forward for this reform, and the prospect of revaluing credit risk. Another implication, it seems unlikely there will be a pause in government debt increase over the fourth quarter.

This raises the more important question of what will be the impact of this enormous debt? Over the past few years credit expansion has surpassed economic growth, and with the governments aggressive leverage, will this lead to a greater waste of resources?

Ironically, "shifting" the debt - no matter how troubling - would be by far the more palatable explanation. Because if somehow China had quietly "created" $1 trillion in debt out of thin air parked subsequently on SOE balance sheets, that would suggest that things in China are orders of magnitude worse than anyone can possibly imagine.

Still, if China did not create this debt now, it will eventually:

This raises the more important question of what will be the impact of this enormous debt? Over the past few years credit expansion has surpassed economic growth, and with the governments aggressive leverage, will this lead to a greater waste of resources?

[W]ith China experiencing slowing economic growth, and no turnaround on the horizon, its seems likely the Chinese government will continue to increase leverage. In September, China Merchants Securities stated that since Chinese government debt leverage ratio is still low, lower than the US, Europe and Japan, there is still more room for leverage.

It's low? Really? Because according to the following McKinsey chart total Chinese debt was $28.2 trillion as of Q2 2014 (it has since risen well over $30 trillion), and represents nearly 300% debt/GDP.

But there is another implication. If China's is indeed merely stuffing government debt on SOE balance sheets as the report suggests...

Haitong Securities said at the start of the year that in order to prevent systemic risk the focus over the next few years will be on government leverage. Based on the experience of other countries, monetary easing almost certainly follows an increase in government leverage, with interest rates in the long term trending to zero.

... then China, while ultimately having to engage in QE, will last out the current regime as long as possible, offloading government debt in ever greater amounts to SOE until finally their debt capacity is maxed out.

Then, and only then, will China unleash the world's last remaining debt monetization episode, whereby the PBOC will proceed to openly monetize the roughly $3-4 trillion in total debt China creates every year. At that point the "Minsky Moment" of not only China, but the entire world, will have arrived.

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