Category Archives: Business

NFIB Small Business Optimism – November 2017

The November NFIB Small Business Optimism report was released today, December 12, 2017. The headline of the Small Business Economic Trends report is “Small Business Optimism Hits Near All-Time High.”

The Index of Small Business Optimism increased in November by 3.7 points to 107.5.

Here are some excerpts that I find particularly notable (but don’t necessarily agree with):

“We haven’t seen this kind of optimism in 34 years, and we’ve seen it only once in the 44 years that NFIB has been conducting this research,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “Small business owners are exuberant about the economy, and they are ready to lead the U.S. economy in a period of robust growth.”

also:

LABOR MARKETS

After several solid quarters, job creation slowed in the small business sector as business owners reported a seasonally adjusted average employment change per firm of 0.0 workers. Thirteen percent (down 1 point) reported increasing employment an average of 3.0 workers per firm and 10 percent (down 1 point) reported reducing employment an average of 2.9 workers per firm (seasonally adjusted). Fifty-two percent reported hiring or trying to hire (down 7 points), but forty-four percent (85 percent of those hiring or trying to hire) reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill.

Eighteen percent of owners cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their Single Most Important Business Problem (down 2 points), second only to taxes. This is the top ranked problem for those in construction (33 percent) and manufacturing (22 percent), getting more votes than taxes and the cost of regulations. Thirty percent of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down 5 points from the record-high level reached in July and October. Eleven percent reported using temporary workers, down 3 points. A seasonally adjusted net 24 percent plan to create new jobs, up 6 points to a record high reading. Hiring plans were strongest in professional services, manufacturing and construction.

also:

COMPENSATION AND EARNINGS

Reports of higher worker compensation were unchanged at a net 27 percent, historically very strong all year. Owners complain at record rates of labor quality issues, with 85 percent of those hiring or trying to hire reporting few or no qualified applicants for their open positions. Eighteen percent selected “finding qualified labor” as their top business problem, far more than cite weak sales. Plans to raise compensation fell 4 points in frequency to a net 17 percent, still a solid number, but a surprise as labor markets seem to be getting tighter. The frequency of reports of positive profit trends improved 2 points to a net negative 12 percent reporting quarter on quarter profit improvements, a solid reading historically, among the best since 2007.

Here is a chart of the NFIB Small Business Optimism chart, as seen in the December 12 Doug Short post titled “NFIB Small Business Survey:  Index Near All-Time High“:

NFIB Small Business Optimism

Further details regarding small business conditions can be seen in the full November 2017 NFIB Small Business Economic Trends (pdf) report.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2667.31 as this post is written

Corporate Profits As A Percentage Of GDP

In the last post (“3rd Quarter 2017 Corporate Profits“) I displayed, for reference purposes, a long-term chart depicting Corporate Profits After Tax.

There are many ways to view this measure, both on an absolute as well as relative basis.

One relative measure is viewing Corporate Profits as a Percentage of GDP.  I feel that this metric is important for a variety of reasons.  As well, the measure is important to a variety of parties, including investors, businesses, and government policy makers.

As one can see from the long-term chart below (updated through the third quarter), (After Tax) Corporate Profits as a Percentage of GDP is at levels that can be seen as historically (very) high.  While there are many reasons as to why this is so, from a going-forward standpoint I think it is important to recognize both that such a notable condition exists, as well as contemplate and/or plan for such factors and conditions that would come about if (and in my opinion “when”) a more historically “normal” ratio of Corporate Profits as a Percentage of GDP occurs.  This topic can be very complex in nature, and depends upon myriad factors.  In my opinion it deserves far greater recognition.

(click on chart to enlarge image)

Corporate Profits As A Percentage Of GDP

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed November 29, 2017

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2626.23 as this post is written

3rd Quarter 2017 Corporate Profits

Today’s (November 29, 2017) GDP release (Q3, 2nd Estimate)(pdf) was accompanied by the BLS Corporate Profits report for the 3rd Quarter.

Of course, there are many ways to adjust and depict overall Corporate Profits.  For reference purposes, here is a chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve (FRED) showing the Corporate Profits After Tax (without IVA and CCAdj) (last updated November 29, 2017, with a value of $1861.357 Billion SAAR):

Corporate Profits After Tax

Here is the Corporate Profits After Tax measure shown on a Percentage Change from a Year Ago perspective:

Corporate Profits Percent Change From Year Ago

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Corporate Profits After Tax [CP]; U.S. Department of Commerce: Bureau of Economic Analysis; accessed November 29, 2017; https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CP

_________

I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2624.91 as this post is written

CEO Confidence Surveys 3Q 2017 – Notable Excerpts

On October 5, 2017, The Conference Board released the 3rd Quarter Measure Of CEO Confidence.   The overall measure of CEO Confidence was at 59, down from 61 in the second quarter. [note:  a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses]

Notable excerpts from this October 5 Press Release include:

CEOs’ assessment of current economic conditions was mixed. Currently, 56 percent say conditions are better compared to six months ago, down from 60 percent in the second quarter. Business leaders, however, are more positive in their appraisal of current conditions in their own industries. Now, 53 percent say conditions in their own industries have improved, up from 47 percent last quarter.

Looking ahead, CEOs’ optimism regarding the short-term outlook for the economy is slightly more pessimistic. Currently, 39 percent expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, compared to 41 percent last quarter. However, 14 percent expect economic conditions to worsen, compared to 3 percent last quarter. About 36 percent of CEOs anticipate an improvement in their own industries over the next six months, down from 48 percent in the second quarter of this year.

The Business Roundtable last month also released its CEO Economic Outlook Survey for the 3rd Quarter of 2017.   Notable excerpts from the September 19, 2017 release, titled “Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index Shows Signs of Continued Confidence in Economy“ (pdf):

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index — a composite of CEO projections for sales and plans for capital spending and hiring over the next six months — stood at 94.5 for the third quarter of 2017, edging up from 93.9 in the second quarter.

For the second quarter in a row, the Index reached its highest level since the second quarter of 2014 (95.4). The Index has also significantly exceeded its historical average of 80.3 for three quarters in a row and remains well above 50, suggesting CEOs’ continued confidence in the U.S. economy.

CEO plans for hiring jumped from the previous quarter, up 9.9 points to 80.2 in the third quarter – the highest reading in more than six years. Expectations for sales dipped by 7.4 to 116.9 for the third quarter, while plans for capital investment moderated slightly from 87.2 to 86.4.

CEOs project 2.1 percent GDP growth in 2017, up 0.1 percent from their projection for 2017 made in June.

_____

I post various economic forecasts because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with many of the consensus estimates and much of the commentary in these forecast surveys.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2546.60 as this post is written

September 2017 Duke/CFO Global Business Outlook Survey – Notable Excerpts

On September 8, 2017 the September 2017 Duke/CFO Global Business Outlook was released.  It contains a variety of statistics regarding how CFOs view business and economic conditions.

In this CFO survey, I found the following to be the most notable excerpts – although I don’t necessarily agree with them:

The survey has been conducted for 86 consecutive quarters and spans the globe, making it the world’s longest-running and most comprehensive research on senior finance executives. This quarter, nearly 850 CFOs responded to the survey, which ended Sept. 8. Results are for the U.S. unless stated otherwise.

For the second quarter in a row, and for only the second time in the history of the survey, difficulty attracting and retaining qualified employees is the top concern of U.S. CFOs. This same concern ranks highly in many places around the world.

also:

Due in part to the tight labor market, U.S. companies expect to pay higher wages, with median wage growth of about 3 percent over the next 12 months. Wage growth should be strongest in the tech, health care, and construction industries.

also:

The Optimism Index fell slightly this quarter to 66 on a 100-point scale. That’s one point lower than last quarter but still far above the long-run average of 60.

“CFOs remain optimistic not only about the overall economy but about their own firms, too,” said Chris Schmidt, senior editor at CFO Research. “Our analysis of past results shows the CFO Optimism Index is an accurate predictor of hiring plans and overall GDP growth.”

The CFO survey contains two Optimism Index charts, with the bottom chart showing U.S. Optimism (with regard to the economy) at 66, as seen below:

Duke CFO Optimism

It should be interesting to see how well the CFOs predict business and economic conditions going forward.   I discussed past various aspects of this, and the importance of these predictions, in the July 9, 2010 post titled “The Business Environment”.

(past posts on CEO and CFO surveys can be found under the “CFO and CEO Confidence” tag)

_____

I post various economic forecasts because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with many of the consensus estimates and much of the commentary in these forecast surveys.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2499.53 as this post is written

Deloitte “CFO Signals” Report Q3 2017 – Notable Aspects

Recently Deloitte released their “CFO Signals” “High-Level Summary” report for the 3rd Quarter of 2017.

As seen in page 2 of the report, there were 160 survey respondents.  As stated:  “Each quarter (since 2Q10), CFO Signals has tracked the thinking and actions of CFOs representing many of North America’s largest and most influential companies.

All respondents are CFOs from the US, Canada, and Mexico, and the vast majority are from companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. For a summary of this quarter’s response demographics, please see the sidebars and charts on this page. For other information about participation and methodology, please contact nacfosurvey@deloitte.com.”

Here are some of the excerpts that I found notable:

from page 3:

Perceptions

How do you regard the current/future status of the North American, Chinese, and European economies? Perceptions of North America declined, with 64% of CFOs rating current conditions as good (still high), and 45% expecting better conditions in a year (down from 58% last quarter). Perceptions of Europe rose to 29% and 32%; China was flat at 32% and 30%. Page 6.

What is your perception of the capital markets? Eighty-three percent of CFOs say debt financing is attractive (down slightly from 85%). Attractiveness of equity financing rose for public company CFOs (from 42% to 48%) and decreased for private company CFOs (from 46% to 35%). Eighty-three percent of CFOs now say US equities are overvalued—a new survey high. Page 7.

Sentiment

Overall, what risks worry you the most? CFOs voice growing concerns about US political turmoil and geopolitical conflict; talent challenges again top CFOs’ internal worries, and technological change is a rising concern. Page 8.

Compared to three months ago, how do you feel about the financial prospects for your company? The net optimism index declined from last quarter’s +44 to +29 this quarter. About 45% of CFOs express rising optimism (down from 55%), and 16% express declining optimism (up from 11%). Page 9.

Expectations

What is your company’s business focus for the next year? CFOs indicate a strong bias toward revenue growth over cost reduction (60% vs. 20%) and investing cash over returning it (56% vs. 14%). They shifted back to a bias toward new offerings over existing ones (42% vs. 34%), and indicated a bias toward current geographies over new ones (62% vs. 19%). Page 10.

Compared to the past 12 months, how do you expect your key operating metrics to change over the next 12 months? Revenue growth expectations remain above the two-year average at 5.7% (up from 5.6% last quarter). Earnings growth slid from 8.7% to 7.9%, but remains above the two-year average. Capital spending growth fell from 9.0% to 7.3%, while domestic hiring growth rose from 2.1% to 2.6%. US CFOs trailed in almost all metrics. Page 11.

from page 9:

Sentiment

Coming off a survey high two quarters ago, optimism continued to decline— largely on growing pessimism in the US; Healthcare/Pharma and Technology improved, but Manufacturing and

(Please note that all responses were collected prior to Hurricane Harvey.)

This quarter’s net optimism declined significantly from last quarter’s +44 to a stillstrong +29. About 45% of CFOs expressed rising optimism (down from 55%), and 16% cited declining optimism (up from 11%).

Net optimism for the US declined sharply from last quarter’s +47 to +28 this quarter. Canada rose from +20 to +31, while optimism in Mexico declined from +50 to +39.

Healthcare/Pharma optimism rose sharply from +33 to +57, and Technology rose from +27 to +46. On the other hand, Manufacturing optimism fell sharply from +52 to +22, and Energy/Resources fell from +47 to just +19.

Please see the appendix for charts specific to individual industries and countries.

from page 11:

Expectations

Growth in key metrics, year-over-year

Bolstered by Canada and Mexico, domestic hiring surged and other metrics remain strong.

Earnings growth declined to 7.9% from last quarter’s 8.7%. The US declined but remained above its two-year average. Canada declined but remains strong. Mexico sits at its highest level in a year. Energy/Resources and Technology lead; Healthcare/Pharma and T/M/E trail.

Capital investment growth fell to 7.3% from 9.0%, still among its five-year highs. The US declined but remains above its two-year average. Canada declined but remains strong.  Mexico fell below its two-year average.  Energy/Resources, Healthcare/Pharma, and Financial Services are highest; Services, Technology, and Manufacturing are lowest.

Domestic hiring growth spiked to 2.6% from 2.1%. Canada hit its second-highest level in three years. Mexico rose to its highest level in a year. The US trails but hit its highest level in two years. Technology and Retail/Wholesale lead, while Healthcare/Pharma and Manufacturing trail. Wage pressures are evident in Mexico.

Please see the appendix for charts specific to individual industries and countries.

Among the various charts and graphics in the report are graphics depicting trends in “Own Company Optimism” on page 9 and “Economic Optimism” found on page 6.

_____

I post various business and economic surveys because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with many of the consensus estimates and much of the commentary in these surveys.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2500.60 as this post is written

NFIB Small Business Optimism – August 2017

The August NFIB Small Business Optimism report was released today, September 12, 2017. The headline of the Small Business Economic Trends report is “Small Business Optimism Holds Its Altitude In August.”

The Index of Small Business Optimism increased in August to 105.3.

Here are some excerpts that I find particularly notable (but don’t necessarily agree with):

The NFIB Index rose 0.1 points to 105.3. Five of the components increased, while five declined. The lofty reading keeps intact a string of historically high performances extending back to last November.

“Consumer demand is very strong, and the regulatory relief has been dramatic,” said Duggan. “Small business owners still expect progress on tax reform and healthcare, and they will be watching closely.”

According to NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg, the August figures for capital outlays are typical of a growing economy.

“Small firms are now making long-term investments in new machines, equipment, facilities, and technology,” he said. “That’s a real sign of strength, and it will be interesting to see if the August result becomes a trend.”

also:

Labor Markets

Small business owners reported a seasonally adjusted average employment change per firm of 0.18 workers per firm over the past three months, virtually unchanged from July. Fourteen percent (up 1 point) reported increasing employment an average of 4.4 workers per firm and 12 percent (up 1 point) reported reducing employment an average of 2.4 workers per firm (seasonally adjusted). Fifty-nine percent reported hiring or trying to hire (down 1 point), but 52 percent (88 percent of those hiring or trying to hire) reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Nineteen percent of owners cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their Single Most Important Business Problem (unchanged), second only to taxes. Labor quality is the top ranked problem in Construction (33 percent) and Manufacturing (25 percent), receiving more votes than taxes and regulatory costs. Thirty-one percent of all owners reported at least one job opening they could not fill in the current period, down 4 points but a very high reading. A seasonally adjusted net 18 percent of owners plan to create new jobs, off 1 point from July but historically very strong.

also:

Credit Markets

Three percent of owners reported that all their borrowing needs were not satisfied, unchanged and historically very low. Thirty-four percent reported all credit needs met (up 3 points) and 49 percent explicitly said they were not interested in a loan, down 2 points. Including those who did not answer the question, 63 percent of owners have no interest in borrowing, down 3 points. Thirty-one percent of all owners reported borrowing on a regular basis (up 1 point). The average rate paid on short maturity loans was down 40 basis points at 5.5 percent, little changed even as the Federal Reserve raises rates.

Here is a chart of the NFIB Small Business Optimism chart, as seen in the September 12 Doug Short post titled “NFIB Small Business Survey:  Index Maintains Momentum in August“:

NFIB Small Business Optimism

Further details regarding small business conditions can be seen in the full August 2017 NFIB Small Business Economic Trends (pdf) report.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2496.48 as this post is written

Corporate Profits As A Percentage Of GDP

In the last post (“2nd Quarter 2017 Corporate Profits“) I displayed, for reference purposes, a long-term chart depicting Corporate Profits After Tax.

There are many ways to view this measure, both on an absolute as well as relative basis.

One relative measure is viewing Corporate Profits as a Percentage of GDP.  I feel that this metric is important for a variety of reasons.  As well, the measure is important to a variety of parties, including investors, businesses, and government policy makers.

As one can see from the long-term chart below (updated through the second quarter), (After Tax) Corporate Profits as a Percentage of GDP is at levels that can be seen as historically (very) high.  While there are many reasons as to why this is so, from a going-forward standpoint I think it is important to recognize both that such a notable condition exists, as well as contemplate and/or plan for such factors and conditions that would come about if (and in my opinion “when”) a more historically “normal” ratio of Corporate Profits as a Percentage of GDP occurs.  This topic can be very complex in nature, and depends upon myriad factors.  In my opinion it deserves far greater recognition.

(click on chart to enlarge image)

Corporate Profits As A Percentage Of GDP

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed August 30, 2017

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2458.59 as this post is written

2nd Quarter 2017 Corporate Profits

Today’s (August 30, 2017) GDP release (Q2, 2nd Estimate)(pdf) was accompanied by the BLS Corporate Profits report for the 2nd Quarter.

Of course, there are many ways to adjust and depict overall Corporate Profits.  For reference purposes, here is a chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve (FRED) showing the Corporate Profits After Tax (without IVA and CCAdj) (last updated August 30, 2017, with a value of $1785.9 Billion SAAR):

Corporate Profits After Tax

Here is the Corporate Profits After Tax measure shown on a Percentage Change from a Year Ago perspective:

Corporate Profits After Tax Percent Change From Year Ago

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Corporate Profits After Tax [CP]; U.S. Department of Commerce: Bureau of Economic Analysis; accessed August 30, 2017; https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/CP

_________

I post various indicators and indices because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with what they depict or imply.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2459.97 as this post is written

CEO Confidence Surveys 2Q 2017 – Notable Excerpts

On July 6, 2017, The Conference Board released the 2nd Quarter Measure Of CEO Confidence.   The overall measure of CEO Confidence was at 61, down from 68 in the first quarter. [note:  a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses]

Notable excerpts from this July 6 Press Release include:

CEOs’ appraisal of current economic conditions waned, with 60 percent saying conditions were better compared to six months ago, down from 71 percent in the first quarter. Business leaders were also less positive in their appraisal of current conditions in their own industries. Now, just 47 percent say conditions in their own industries have improved, down from 60 percent last quarter.

Looking ahead, CEOs’ optimism regarding the short-term outlook for the economy moderated due to a greater percentage expressing a “more of the same” sentiment as opposed to foreseeing conditions worsening. Currently, 41 percent expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, compared to approximately 65 percent last quarter. The outlook for their own industries was also less favorable, with 48 percent of CEOs anticipating an improvement over the next six months, down from 67 percent in the first quarter of this year.

The Business Roundtable last month also released its CEO Economic Outlook Survey for the 2nd Quarter of 2017.   Notable excerpts from the June 6, 2017 release, titled “Survey:  America’s Business Leaders Maintaining Confidence in U.S. Economy“:

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index — a composite of CEO
plans for capital spending and hiring and projections for sales over the next six months —
reached its highest level in three years, since the second quarter of 2014 (95.4). The Index
stood at 93.9 in the second quarter of 2017, up from 93.3 in the first quarter. For the
second quarter in a row, the Index stands well above its historical average of 80.0.

CEO plans for capital investment rose by 4.6 points from the last quarter, while
expectations for sales stayed steady, increasing by 0.5 point. Plans for hiring for the next
six months dropped a modest 3.3 points.

CEOs project 2.0 percent GDP growth in 2017, down two-tenths from their projection for
2017 made in March.

_____

I post various economic forecasts because I believe they should be carefully monitored.  However, as those familiar with this site are aware, I do not necessarily agree with many of the consensus estimates and much of the commentary in these forecast surveys.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2427.43 as this post is written