During earnings season, executives of public companies not only lay out the results of the prior quarter, but also have an opportunity to explain why they may have fallen short or what hurt their business.
Typically, companies have a stable of reason that their quarterly results could have been better. In addition to old standbys like foreign exchange rates, many companies also focus on a single macro event to pin the blame on for lacklustre results. For instance, in the second quarter a number of companies cited Brexit as a large impact on their business.
It appears that for the third quarter earnings season — which unofficially kicks off Tuesday with industrial metals producer Alcoa reporting — the theme will be the US presidential election.
Essentially, the argument used by executives when talking about the election so far is that uncertainty over the result is weighing on consumer sentiment and causing people to be more cautious about where they spend their money.
“I think where we’re what five weeks away from a general election, I think there’s just great uncertainty as to what’s going to happen in the US, in particular, as a result of the outcome of the election,” said Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed in his company’s earnings call Thursday. “It goes without saying that people are sort of trying to decide who to choose and what the impact will be on the economy. And I think people maybe just hunkering down a little bit.”
Carnival Cruise Lines also cited the election as a reason for people slowing down their bookings of vacations through the company.
“Also, we’ve anticipated a bit of an election slowdown, as historically there’s always been a little fall off in booking volumes around election time,” said CEO Arnold Donald during the firm’s third quarter earnings call. “And so there could be some of that, but in our case again, right now we’re doing so well, and we’re so far ahead and the pricing is strong.”
This concern even extended back to the second quarter, when Wendy’s used a similar explanation for its less-than-stellar results. Even outside of earnings calls, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson talked about getting “the election behind us” at a recent Goldman Sachs communications conference.
All of the blame isn’t going to be placed on Clinton and Trump, but any impact on incremental demand will be brought up by CEOs.
While people may certainly be concerned about the election, recent measures of consumer confidence have exceeded or neared post-financial crisis highs and consumer spending remains one of the bright spots of the US economy. So individual companies may have different metrics, but the macroeconomic data seems to indicate that people are not slowing their spending due to the Trump-Clinton showdown.