The Economy: A Light in the Black

Ferguson-Wellmanby Jason Norris, CFA,Executive Vice President of Research
Ferguson Wellman,

A Light in the Black

What a week! With concerns about growth in China, continued deterioration of the Chinese equity market and U.S. investors rushed to the sidelines by redeeming over $17 billion in equity mutual funds and ETFs. This, coupled with concern over when the Fed will raise rates, led U.S. equities to experience a 12 percent correction from recent highs on Tuesday (see last week’s blog for more detail). This was long overdue as it had been almost four years since the S&P 500 had corrected by at least 10 percent, which was the third longest period in history. However, after six consecutive days of selling, on Wednesday the near-term bottom was reached on the S&P at 1867, down from its all-time high of 2130 which was reached on May 21, 2015.

Understandably, rapid downward moves in equities can be disconcerting. We don’t know if we’ve seen the bottom; however, we believe there is a light at the end of this tunnel in the form of domestic market fundamentals. For example, U.S. GDP was revised higher on Thursday from 2.3 percent q/q annualized to 3.7 percent. This was driven by several factors – primarily capital spending and consumer spending. Earlier this month we also saw retail sales numbers revised higher. When this data was originally reported, we did view it with some skepticism since our bottoms-up analysis did show better strength than the broad government reports.

After analysis of the earnings reports for the companies we own, it revealed annual growth in earnings of 2 percent; however, excluding Energy, growth was close to 13 percent. Even when looking at the broad market, earnings growth (excluding Energy) was around 5 percent. This growth was driven by the U.S. consumer and healthcare. These fundamentals signal to us that the U.S. economy is healthy and improving.

Earnings Growth for the 10 Economic Sectors of the S&P 500



Source: FactSet

The table above highlights the underlying sectors of the U.S. market, showing both the actual growth rate for the second quarter and an estimate for 2015. The key to focus on is that commodity prices are bringing down Energy and Basic Materials, and the strong U.S. dollar and China is hurting Industrials. However, when you lift up the hood of the market, corporate America is still exhibiting solid growth.

Our Takeaways for the Week

Corporate earnings remain healthy
While volatility may remain until the Fed tightens, we still like equities long-term

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