Here's What America's Biggest Companies Are Telling Us About The Economy In 2013

carnival splendor

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Fourth quarter earnings season is in full swing.According to FactSet, just over 10 per cent of companies in the S&P have reported their financial results, and two thirds have beat expectations on revenues and estimates.

However, these announcements are about more than EPS.  Through their press releases and earnings calls, these companies reveal what’s really going on in the world from their unparalleled perspectives.

We’ve listened to the latest earnings calls and read through the earnings call transcripts to fill you in on what executives are saying about the world and where it’s headed.

Generally speaking, companies are bullish on China, bearish on Europe, and increasingly trying to cope with regulatory and technological changes.

American Express says Hurricane Sandy didn't derail consumer spending.

Fastenal notes that slow business is keeping inflation low.

'There's not a lot of inflation, and there's not a lot of -- business is slow, so people are less likely to push pricing. Very, very kind of uneventful pricing environment.'

Source: Seeking Alpha

Schlumberger expects no major changes to oil prices in 2013.

'Looking at the global oil market, 2013 demand is expected to grow at similar levels with 2012, excluding any major macroeconomic changes...Based on this, we do not see any major change in the global spare capacity in the coming year, and we expect Brent prices to remain in a broadly similar price band as seen in 2012.'

Source: Seeking Alpha

Constellation Brands says no one was toasting to the Fiscal Cliff.

UnitedHealth says health care reform is bullish for the industry's growth.

'There is certainly a great deal more to work through and significant unknowns. But so far, it has been manageable. In the end, the ACA expands an enormous national healthcare market that will be served by the private sector.'

Source: Seeking Alpha

Alcoa says Chinese growth will outpace the world.

'China we believe will rebound to 11% growth. We also see good growth in places like Russia, Brazil, India and Middle East. North America will continue in our view to roll at around 4%. Europe is essentially flat; we have it here at minus 1%'

Source: Seeking Alpha

Nike, however, notes that its branded goods are lagging in China.

'Excluding the impact of changes in foreign currency, NIKE Brand revenues rose 11 per cent, with growth in all key categories, product types and geographies except Greater China.

JP Morgan Chase says fiscal policy is the only missing ingredient that would get the U.S. economy going.

'Look, I think the American economy -- I said the table is rather well set. Consumers, businesses, housing, small businesses, they're all in pretty good shape. And I think we need good policy, good fiscal policy'

Source: Seeking Alpha

eBay says we're in the midst of the Mobile Revolution.

'At an extraordinary pace, consumers are embracing mobile as the everyday way to shop and pay. And mobile technology is accelerating Web-enabled multichannel retail innovation, and we are a leader in this mobile commerce revolution...Mobile is quickly becoming the new normal'

Source: Seeking Alpha

GE reminds us that wind energy today is all about tax credits.

' really opens up a two-year window. So, I think, in aggregate over the next two years it's going to increase the number of Wind shipments we are going to have, but exactly which quarters and stuff like that is hard to predict.'

Source: Seeking Alpha

Carnival Corp says Europe's economic woes are keeping people from taking seaborne vacations.

'However, the company's European brands continue to be negatively impacted by a deteriorating
economic environment.

Even Goldman Sachs still lacks clarity on new banking regulations.

'I think the broader issue is the collective visibility into all rules, whether it's Volcker, the impact of Dodd-Frank, things that impact globally. And so -- and there, I don't think we have a lot of collective visibility into the weight of that. And actually, I think it's difficult for the regulators to really assess all of that, which, quite frankly, is a concern for the industry and, obviously, it's a concern for the global economy.'

Source: Seeking Alpha

Monsanto thinks Latin America is becoming the world's new bread basket.

'Importantly, the Latin American opportunity is tracking very well, setting up the full year growth that we expect from this important element of our 2013 strategy. As we expected, the initial corn acres in Brazil's summer season were lower than last year, but the market is set for one of the largest ever second season Safrinha crops, keeping total acres on par with last year, and even with some early rain delays in Argentina, the corn crop is on target with our planning projections.'

Source: Seeking Alpha

Wells Fargo confirms that the American housing rebound is in the works.

'The housing market began a steady rebound during 2012 while many measures of activity and prices remained low by historical standards and a complete recovery will still take some time. There is no doubt that a corner was turned which is a real positive for our economy and for Wells Fargo.'

Source: Seeking Alpha

But if it's just the U.S. you're concerned about, check out this presentation:

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