Category Archives: Business

NFIB Small Business Optimism – August 2018

The August NFIB Small Business Optimism report was released today, September 11, 2018. The headline of the Economic Trends report is “Small Business Optimism Shatters Record Previously Set 35 Years Ago.”

The Index of Small Business Optimism increased in August by .9 points to 108.8.

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

The August survey showed:

  • Job creation plans and unfilled job openings both set new records.
  • The percentage of small business owners saying it is a good time to expand tied the May 2018 all-time high.
  • Inventory investment plans were the strongest since 2005 and capital spending plans the highest since 2007.

also:

A net 10 percent of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reported higher nominal sales in the past three months compared to the prior three months, up two points. August is the ninth consecutive strong month of reported sales gains after years of low or negative numbers. The net percent of owners planning to build inventories rose six points to a record net 10 percent, the 14th positive reading in the past 22 months. The frequency of reports of positive profit trends rose two points to a net one percent reporting quarter on quarter profit improvements, the second highest reading in the survey’s 45-year history.

Here is a chart of the NFIB Small Business Optimism chart, as seen in the September 11 Doug Short post titled “NFIB Small Business Survey:  Small Business Optimism…“:

NFIB Small Business Optimism

Further details regarding small business conditions can be seen in the full August 2018 NFIB Small Business Economic Trends (pdf) report.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2883.37 as this post is written

Corporate Profits As A Percentage Of GDP

In the last post (“2nd Quarter 2018 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)

U.S. Corporate Profits As A Percentage Of GDP

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed August 29, 2018

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2908.12 as this post is written

2nd Quarter 2018 Corporate Profits

Today’s (August 29, 2018) GDP release (Q2 2018, 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 29, 2018, with a value of $1968.509 Billion SAAR):

CP_8-29-18 1968.509

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

CP_8-29-18 1968.509 6.7 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 29, 2018; 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 2903.05 as this post is written

CEO Confidence Surveys 2Q 2018 – Notable Excerpts

On July 5, 2018, The Conference Board released the 2nd Quarter Measure Of CEO Confidence.   The overall measure of CEO Confidence was at 63, down from 65 in the first quarter. [note:  a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses]

Notable excerpts from this July 5 Press Release include:

CEOs’ assessment of current economic conditions was about the same as in the first quarter of 2018, with 74 percent saying conditions are better compared to six months ago. CEO sentiment was also virtually unchanged regarding the assessment of current conditions in their own industries, with about 51 percent saying conditions are better than six months ago.

Looking ahead, however, CEOs’ expectations regarding the economic outlook are much less optimistic than last quarter. Now, just 48 percent expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, compared to 63 percent in the second quarter. CEOs’ expectations regarding short-term prospects in their own industries over the next six months were relatively flat, with only 42 percent anticipating an improvement in conditions.

Last month, The Business Roundtable also released its CEO Economic Outlook Survey for the 2nd Quarter of 2018.   Notable excerpts from the June 5, 2018 release, titled “Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index Eases, Remains Near Historic High“:

The Q2 2018 CEO Economic Outlook Index — a composite of CEO expectations for sales and plans for capital spending and hiring over the next six months — fell to 111.1 in the second quarter of 2018, declining 7.5 points from 118.6 in the first quarter. While this is the first time the Index has declined in nearly two years, the Index remains well above its historical average of 81.2 for the sixth straight quarter. This signals a continued positive direction for the U.S. economy despite modest declines in all three components of the Index. The new survey also shows a CEO projection of 2.7 percent U.S. GDP growth in 2018, a small decrease from the 2.8 percent projection last quarter.

CEO plans for hiring dipped slightly to 95.5, down 3.0 points from the previous quarter. Plans for capital investment fell to 107.6, a decrease of 7.8 points from Q1 2018. Expectations for sales fell to 130.3, a decrease of 11.6 points from last quarter.

Additional details can be seen in the sources mentioned above.

_____

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 2791.19 as this post is written

Deloitte “CFO Signals” Report Q2 2018 – Notable Aspects

Recently Deloitte released their “CFO Signals” “High-Level Summary” report for the 2nd Quarter of 2018.

As seen in page 2 of the report, there were 172 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 [email protected]

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, European, and Chinese economies? Perceptions of North America improved, with 94% of CFOs rating current conditions as good (up from 90% last quarter and a new survey high), and 52% expecting better conditions in a year (down from 59%). Perceptions of Europe declined to 47% and 36%, respectively (both metrics remain near their survey highs), and China rose to 55% (a new high) and 31%. Page 6.

What is your perception of the capital markets? Seventy-three percent of CFOs say debt financing is attractive (down from 77%). Attractiveness of equity financing decreased for public company CFOs (from 43% to 36%) and increased for private company CFOs (from 35% to 45%). Sixty-three percent of CFOs now say US equities are overvalued—the lowest level in two years. Page 7.

Sentiment

Overall, what risks worry you the most? CFOs express strong external concerns about US politics (especially around trade policy), while concerns about economic risks, which had subsided over the last few quarters, began to rise. They again cite pressure to execute on their growth plans, voicing growing internal concerns about driving initiatives and finding talent. Page 8.

Compared to three months ago, how do you feel about the financial prospects for your company? The net optimism index fell from last quarter’s survey-high +54 to +39 (still quite strong). Forty-eight percent of CFOs express rising optimism (down from 59%), and 9% express declining optimism. Page 9.

Expectations

What is your company’s business focus for the next year? CFOs indicate a survey-high bias toward revenue growth over cost reduction (67% vs. 17%) and a somewhat lower bias toward investing cash over returning it (56% vs. 18%).

The bias toward new offerings over current ones grew this quarter (40% vs. 35%), and the bias toward current geographies over new ones increased slightly (59% vs. 16%). 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 rose from 5.9% to 6.3% (the highest level in nearly four years). Earnings growth rose from 9.8% to 10.3% (a three-year high). Capital investment slid from 11.0% to 10.4% (still among its six-year highs). Domestic hiring rose from 3.1% to 3.2% (a new high). Technology and Retail/Wholesale showed substantial improvement. Page 11.

from page 9:

Sentiment

Optimism regarding own-companies’ prospects

After hitting a new high last quarter, net optimism declined this quarter, but remains relatively strong—despite substantial weakness in Mexico and Healthcare/Pharma.

Net optimism hit a survey-high +50 in 1Q17, then another new high last quarter at +54. This quarter’s net optimism declined to +39— significantly down, but still quite strong by historical standards. Forty-eight percent of CFOs expressed rising optimism (down from 59%), and 9% cited declining optimism (up from 6%).

Net optimism for the US declined from +55 last quarter to +42 this quarter. Canada declined from +47 to +33, while optimism in Mexico fell sharply from +38 to zero.

Sentiment was particularly strong in Services and Technology—both of which came in above +50. Retail/Wholesale and Manufacturing both declined sharply from last quarter’s highs (both were above +60). Healthcare/Pharma declined sharply to -33.

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

from page 11:

Expectations

Growth in key metrics, year-over-year

After hitting multi-year highs last quarter, key growth metrics continued to climb this quarter. Capital spending remained strong in the US, but weakened in Canada and Mexico. Technology, and Retail/Wholesale showed substantial improvement.

Revenue growth rose from 5.9% to 6.3%, its highest level in nearly four years. The US rose to a two-year high. Canada rose above its two-year average, and Mexico rose to a three-year high. Technology leads; Services and Manufacturing trail.

Earnings growth rose from 9.8% to 10.3%, its highest level in three years. The US declined slightly, but remains near its three-year high. Canada rose to its highest level in nearly four years, while Mexico rose to its five-year high. Technology* leads; Healthcare/Pharma trails.

Capital investment declined from 11.0% to 10.4%, but remains at one of the highest levels in the last six years. The US remained near its five-year high. Canada declined and is below its two-year average; Mexico declined sharply to near its two-year average. Manufacturing and Retail/Wholesale are again highest; Healthcare/Pharma and Technology are lowest.

Domestic personnel growth rose from 3.1% to 3.2%, a new survey high. The US remained at last quarter’s high; Canada rose to its second-highest level in five years; Mexico rose to its second highest level in three years. Technology and Retail/Wholesale lead; T/M/E* trails.

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

* Please note that, due to a very small sample size,

T/M/E was not used as an industry comparison point.

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 2767.32 as this post is written

June 2018 Duke/CFO Global Business Outlook Survey – Notable Excerpts

On June 13, 2018 the June 2018 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 press release, I found the following to be the most notable excerpts – although I don’t necessarily agree with them:

The Optimism Index in the U.S. remained at an all-time high of 71 on a 100-point scale this quarter. Optimism fell in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. The survey’s CFO Optimism Index is an accurate predictor of future hiring and overall GDP growth.

“This increased U.S. optimism appears to have increased expectations for M&A activity,” Graham said. “More than 70 percent of CFOs expect more mergers and acquisitions to occur over the next year.”

also:

The proportion of firms indicating they are having difficulty hiring and retaining qualified employees remains near a two-decade high, with 41 percent of CFOs calling it a top concern. The typical U.S. firm says it plans to increase employment by a median 3 percent in 2018 and expects wages to increase 4 percent on average.

“The tight labor market continues to put upward pressure on wages,” said Chris Schmidt, senior editor at CFO Research. “Wage inflation is now a top five concern of U.S. CFOs.”

Wage growth should be strongest in the tech, transportation, and service/consulting industries. U.S. companies expect the prices of their products to increase by more than 3 percent over the next year.

The CFO survey contains two Optimism Index charts, with the bottom chart showing U.S. Optimism (with regard to the economy) at 71, as seen below:

Duke CFO Optimism chart

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 2775.63 as this post is written

NFIB Small Business Optimism – May 2018

The May NFIB Small Business Optimism report was released today, June 12, 2018. The headline of the Economic Trends report is “Small Business Optimism Soars, Continuing Historic Run, Hitting Several Records in May.”

The Index of Small Business Optimism increased in May by 3 points to 107.8.

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

The Small Business Optimism Index increased in May to the second highest level in the NFIB survey’s 45-year history. The index rose to 107.8, a three-point gain, with small businesses reporting high numbers in several key areas including compensation, profits, and sales trends.

also:

The May report hit several records:

• Compensation increases hit a 45-year high at a record net 35 percent.
• Positive earnings trends reached a survey high at a net three percent.
• Positive sales trends are at the highest level since 1995.
• Expansion plans are the most robust in survey history.

also:

Access to credit continues as a non-issue with 37 percent of owners reporting all credit needs were satisfied and 43 percent saying they were not interested in a loan, down seven points from last month and the lowest reading since 2007. Only one percent reported that financing was their top business problem. Owners planning to build inventories rose three points to a net four percent, the nineteenth positive reading in the past 20 months.

As reported in NFIB’s May jobs report, 23 percent of owners cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their Single Most Important Business Problem, followed by taxes at 17 percent and regulations at 13 percent. Fifty-eight percent reported hiring or trying to hire, up one point from last month but 83 percent of those reported few or no qualified workers.

Here is a chart of the NFIB Small Business Optimism chart, as seen in the June 12 Doug Short post titled “NFIB Small Business Survey:  ‘Small Business Optimism Soars…’“:

NFIB Small Business Optimism

Further details regarding small business conditions can be seen in the full May 2018 NFIB Small Business Economic Trends (pdf) report.

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2782.60 as this post is written

Corporate Profits As A Percentage Of GDP

In the last post (“1st Quarter 2018 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 first 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 Percent Of GDP

Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; accessed May 30, 2018

_____

The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2728.14 as this post is written

1st Quarter 2018 Corporate Profits

Today’s (May 30, 2018) GDP release (Q1, 2nd Estimate)(pdf) was accompanied by the BLS Corporate Profits report for the 1st 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 May 30, 2018, with a value of $1811.844 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 May 30, 2018; 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 2727.09 as this post is written

CEO Confidence Surveys 1Q 2018 – Notable Excerpts

On April 5, 2018, The Conference Board released the 1st Quarter Measure Of CEO Confidence.   The overall measure of CEO Confidence was at 65, up from 63 in the fourth quarter. [note:  a reading of more than 50 points reflects more positive than negative responses]

Notable excerpts from this April 5 Press Release include:

CEOs’ assessment of current economic conditions was slightly more positive, with 75 percent saying conditions are better compared to six months ago, up from 71 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. CEOs were also moderately more optimistic in their appraisal of current conditions in their own industries. Now, 51 percent say conditions in their own industries have improved, up from 49 percent last quarter.

Looking ahead, CEOs’ expectations regarding the short-term outlook was significantly better. Now, 63 percent expect economic conditions to improve over the next six months, compared to just 47 percent last quarter. CEOs, however, were only slightly more upbeat about short-term prospects in their own industries over the next six months, with 43 percent anticipating conditions will improve, versus 41 percent last quarter.

The Business Roundtable last month also released its CEO Economic Outlook Survey for the 1st Quarter of 2018.   Notable excerpts from the March 13, 2018 release, titled “Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index Reaches Highest Level in Survey’s 15-Year History“:

The Business Roundtable Q1 2018 CEO Economic Outlook Index – a composite of CEO projections for sales and plans for capital spending and hiring over the next six months – increased to 118.6 in the first quarter of 2018, the highest level since the survey began in the fourth quarter of 2002. The survey was conducted between February 7 and February 26, 2018. Results reflect renewed CEO optimism and confidence following passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but do not capture effects of President Trump’s March 8, 2018, announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs.

The Q1 2018 Index exceeded its previous high point of 113 in 2011. The Index has significantly surpassed its historical average level of 81.2.

All three components of the Index reached record highs, signaling a positive direction for the U.S economy.

  • CEO plans for hiring rose to 98.5, up 22.8 from the previous quarter.
  • Plans for capital investment rose to 115.4, up 22.7 from Q4 2017.
  • Expectations for sales reached 141.9, an increase of 19.9 from the last quarter.

In their second estimate for GDP in 2018, CEOs project 2.8 percent GDP growth for the year, compared to the previous quarter’s estimate of 2.5 percent for the year.

Additional details can be seen in the sources mentioned above.

_____

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 2662.84 as this post is written