Maybe you missed it with all the anxiety around the economy running too hot for the Fed to relax on interest rates before a recession hits, but from a corporate point of view the slowdown has already happened. And it’s over now, writes Hilary Kramer, editor of GameChangers.
Earnings for the S&P 500 are now trending 2.7% above last year’s levels. That doesn’t look like much, but it’s the first progress we’ve had to work with in about a year. Positive growth is a good thing. Companies with expanding cash flow are logically worth more over time. Every share is more valuable in real terms.
And the thing about growth or any other dynamic trend is that there’s a time component. When investors buy low and sell high, it usually means we buy a company when it’s smaller, hold on for the intervening growth, then sell our stake in the bigger enterprise for more money than what we put in.
This is how the market normally functions. Corporate earnings tend to increase over time. These aren’t static entities that drift around the economic landscape. They’re run by smart people with vision and the power to execute their growth agendas, investing money in the present to lay the groundwork for that kind of value creation.
Anyway, it’s good to see that once again those smart people are collectively creating more value than outside forces like the Fed, labor strikes, war, and bond yields are managing to destroy. The current quarter should be even better...enough to tip the entire year into the “progress” category. And then from there, 2024 looks like business as usual for Wall Street.
What I like about these numbers is that it isn’t just Amazon (AMZN). It’s a lot of consumer stocks like Nike (NKE) and Whirlpool (WHR). It’s Domino’s Pizza (DPZ) and even strike-plagued General Motors (GM). The banks are doing well. The chip makers are doing well.
And it’s worth noting: There’s always a recession somewhere, just like there’s always at least a relative boom elsewhere in the economy. The kind of “recession” the government economists care about is so deep and so broad-based that it affects almost everyone, one way or another.
From Silicon Valley’s perspective, last year was the recession. They laid off a lot of people and emerged leaner and more profitable than ever. As far as the banks go, the whole of the past decade was the long recession: Zero interest rates poisoned the traditional lending business and made it very difficult for these institutions to do more than support themselves.
Suddenly the right balance sheet is a competitive advantage. We’ll see merger talks as bankers try to fit the right deposits onto the right loan books and come out the other side with a stronger joint enterprise. Those who don’t want to sell will accept premium prices to change their minds.
These are good things for investors. The present finally looks better than the past in fundamental terms. The future looks even better. While you might not want to buy a lot of stocks at these levels, there’s nothing wrong with holding onto what you already have here.