Goldman Sachs strategist David Kostin takes stock of the big trends and themes from this quarter’s corporate earnings call in a note called the S&P 500 “Beige Book.”
Here are the three trends identified by Kostin and his team:
Theme 1: Debacle in Washington, DC caused only limited damage The uncertainty surrounding the government shutdown weakened 3Q results by only a small amount. Firms generally dismissed the disruption as short-term and they expect resolution by the end of 1Q 2014. Executives believe uncertainty has suppressed business and consumer confidence.
Theme 2: Results in China were disappointing for many firms Many companies reported disappointing 3Q performance in their China divisions. It marked a reversal from the end of 2Q when management optimism on China business prospects was a common theme.
Theme 3: Leveraging Technology: Digital media and “big data” Companies across all sectors are focused on increasing brand awareness and image through the use of social media. Other firms look to “big data” to control costs and find efficiencies in an effort to increase margins.
The last one might be the most interesting in terms of a big secular story. Investing in social media and big data as a trend that’s spreading beyond tech has all kinds of implications.
From the note, here are some examples of companies talking about these tech trends.
For example, here’s something from the McDonald’s earnings call:
Technology is going to be a big part of our future, particularly digital engagement with consumers. And so you’ll hear us and see us talk about much more digital engagement with consumers. The thing that you’ll see changed a bit is we are being much stronger relative to communicating about our brand, communicating about our food. Customers want to hear more about transparency.
And Yum Brands:
We’re also leveraging our massive network of employees and suppliers through social media.
And here’s Schlumberger, talking about big data:
Over the past 12 months, we have continued to actively promote our shale reservoir workflow to the market, with a strong focus on optimising both well locations as well as completion design. As part of these efforts, we have introduced a data consortium business model where multiple customers with neighbouring acreage can contribute reservoir and production data and then co-fund field and well studies as well as the construction of 3D reservoir models for the shale plays.
And here’s Coach:
Moving to digital. As mentioned, our North America online business continues to be strong with traffic growing at a double digit pace, driven by engagement from tablet and mobile devices, which represents over 50% of our site visits. Optimization of these devices has been a key focus for us, creating more compelling customer experiences.
Of course, to some extent, there’s probably an element of companies talking up their affinity for the latest buzzwords. But still, to the extent that these are trends worth talking about, it could represent real dollar shifts in terms of how these companies invest and promote themselves.