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Stock futures: Will the China trade deal spur the stock market to record highs like Apple? Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, Facebook, Visa are near buys.
Earnings season for banks begins Oct. 15, when J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo are scheduled to announce their Q3 results. However one CIO says earnings are not the focus in the market.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- However frothy valuations currently seem to be, optimists can always argue they’re justified by strong earnings. In the past four years, S&P 500 operating earnings per share have grown by nearly 40%.Those numbers, however, may be as airy as the asset prices they support. The U.S. government’s national income and product accounts -- which cover a broader number of businesses than the S&P, use tax returns and adjust for certain accounting practices -- suggest that corporate profits actually peaked in 2014 and have been stagnant since. The national accounts also show significant downward revisions to corporate profit margins over the previous five years. While one would expect some discrepancies between that data and S&P numbers, which are based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the gulf is too wide to be ignored.What’s going on? In many cases, accounting choices appear to be distorting results. In early 2019, General Electric Co. reported GAAP losses of $2.43 per share; under adjusted figures it earned $0.65 per share. Tesla Inc. reported full-year GAAP losses of $5.72 per share but “non-GAAP” losses were only $1.33 per share. Over 95% of S&P 500 companies regularly use at least one non-GAAP measure, up about 50% over the last 20 years.One question is how companies choose to recognize income. In the case of long-term, multi-year contracts, such as construction projects, reported revenue can be based on a formula: a portion of the total contract amount, calculated as costs incurred in the relevant period as a percentage of total forecast costs. Understating estimated final costs allows margins to be increased and greater revenue to be recognized up front. Following the collapse of Carillion PLC, the firm was found to be aggressive in recording income which was sensitive to small changes in assumptions. Given the trend to converting sales of products (such as software) into long-term service contracts, these risks are only going to grow. Companies can understate expenses. Many tech companies use non-GAAP accounting to strip out the cost of employee stock options, for instance, thereby showing higher earnings. WeWork sought to redefine traditional earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization as something called “community-based EBITDA.” The new measure conveniently excluded normal operating expenses such as marketing, general and administrative expenses, development and design costs.Spending may be treated as an asset, to be written off in the future rather than when expended. A recent JPMorgan Chase and Co. research report found software intangible assets (the amount spent but not yet expensed) averaged up to 15% of adjusted costs for a sample of European banks. The idea is to better match expenses to the period over which they are expected to benefit the business. But the practice may overstate current earnings.Related-party transactions can distort a company’s true financial position. Saudi Arabia slashed the tax rate on large oil companies to 50% from 85%, even though the government depends on the profits of Saudi Arabian Oil Co. for 80% of its revenues. Aramco will still pay most of its profits to the state, but as dividends rather than tax. That means reported profits will be higher, potentially increasing the company’s valuation ahead of a highly anticipated initial public offering. Complex structures can mask liabilities. Tesla, for instance, faces potential payments related to its SolarCity business. Before being bought by Tesla in 2016, SolarCity regularly sold future cash flows to outside investors in exchange for upfront cash. Tesla assumed these obligations and has continued the practice. The obligations now reportedly total over $1.3 billion.To reduce unfunded pension liabilities, some companies have borrowed at low available interest rates to inject money into the funds. That’s fine as long as fund returns -- generally assumed to be around 6% to 8% -- are higher than the cost of borrowing. If returns come in lower, however, the companies in question will have to raise their contributions, affecting future earnings.New business models often disregard potential costs. If Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. drivers are reclassified as employees as proposed in California, then hidden employment costs would need to be recognized, perhaps retrospectively. Newly listed fitness company Peloton Interactive Inc. faces a $300 million lawsuit from music publishers who claim the company used their songs in workouts without paying licensing fees.Finally, stated asset values can be misleading. Goodwill, the difference between acquisition price and the fair value of actual assets acquired, now averages above 50% of acquisition price. Goodwill values are notoriously uncertain. In 2018, GE unexpectedly wrote off $23.2 billion of goodwill arising from its acquisition of Alstom SA.The problem is compounded by private markets, where funding rounds can establish questionable valuations. Recent investments into WeWork valued the company at over $40 billion, more than three times the projected pricing of its abandoned IPO. A recent proposal to get Saudi businesses to make anchor investments in Aramco ahead of its IPO could also inflate its valuation.“Fake” financials, as some would call them, undermine markets. With a correction looking increasingly likely, investors need to start working with regulators and standard setters now to close accounting loopholes, while scrutinizing underlying data more closely. Otherwise, the more creatively companies are allowed to manage their financial position for short-term gain, the bigger the bill is going to be.(Corrects definition of goodwill in twelfth paragraph.)To contact the author of this story: Satyajit Das at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Nisid Hajari at email@example.comThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Satyajit Das is a former banker and the author, most recently, of "A Banquet of Consequences."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
In the last week, we looked at Amazon Inc (AMZN) stock trends. Here is another attempt to decode the same patterns for the second week of October 2019.
Netflix Inc (NASDAQ: NFLX) is scheduled to report its third-quarter results Tuesday, after the market close. Analysts, on average, expect the company to report revenues of $5.25 billion, up 31.30% year-over-year. Over the past four quarters, Netflix has managed to beat earnings per expectations by an average of 24.08%.
The coming week’s docket of economic reports and earnings releases comes just following the Trump administration’s announcement of a partial trade deal with China late last week.
Health authorities in Democratic Republic of Congo will introduce a Johnson & Johnson Ebola vaccine in November in the country's eastern provinces, to counter the current outbreak, they said. The J&J vaccine will complement another vaccine manufactured by Merck, which has been administered to more than 225,000 people. It requires two injections eight weeks apart, unlike the Merck vaccine, which requires a single shot.
“The NFL has really been obsessed with the integrity of the sport," the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars said.
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie blasted Facebook’s continued influence after its widely publicized data scandal,
Facebook’s plans for a digital currency are coming under further pressure as global regulators step up their scrutiny of the troubled Libra project. In a letter to G20 finance ministers on Sunday, Randal Quarles, the head of the global Financial Stability Board, said that, with a “host of challenges” posed by global “stablecoins”, such as Libra, “possible regulatory gaps should be assessed and addressed as a matter of priority”. This, the letter said, created challenges including financial stability, consumer and investor protection, data privacy, money laundering, terrorist financing, fair competition, cyber security and tax evasion.
As it meets with backers on Monday, Facebook is realising just how much. Digital transformation in banking is welcome, but regulators are right to argue that Facebook has yet to make the case for its own e-bucks. Libra — billed as a “stablecoin”, pegged to a basket of currencies — was sold as a disrupter that could bank the unbanked and slash transaction costs and times.
Little is known about Facebook's Libra five months after its launch. But Congress now has a chance to get answers straight from the horse's mouth.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren's Democratic presidential campaign this week challenged Facebook's policy that exempts politicians' ads from fact-checking, by running ads on the social media platform containing the false claim that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg endorsed President Donald Trump's re-election bid. "Facebook changed their ads policy to allow politicians to run ads with known lies - explicitly turning the platform into a disinformation-for-profit machine. Facebook Inc's policy has come under fire from another Democratic front-runner in the 2020 race.
The Democratic presidential candidate would like not only to break up Big Tech, but tax companies such as Facebook and people like Mr Zuckerberg a lot more. It galls me not that I pay roughly half my income in taxes, but that I do so because I earn it from actual work while those who earn money from rising share prices pay much less. , a book by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, who are advising Ms Warren on tax issues, including the details of how to tax wealth rather than just income.
This will be a key week for Brexit because Boris Johnson will need to ask Brussels for an extension on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU under the terms of the Benn Act if parliament has not approved either a deal or no-deal exit by Saturday. The European Council meets in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, where any deal reached will need to be signed off. Mr Johnson’s team is believed to be drawing up plans to fudge the most controversial issue dogging negotiations with Brussels: whether Northern Ireland should be part of the EU customs union to avoid the need for a hard border with the Irish Republic.
The world’s second-richest man said in a statement through a spokesperson that he recognised it was “an error in judgment” ever to have met Epstein, who committed suicide two months ago while facing charges of trafficking underage girls. This had given Epstein “an undeserved platform”. Mr Gates is among several prominent figures to have moved in recent weeks to distance themselves from Epstein, who cultivated a network of rich and powerful associates from business, academia, politics and royalty.
On CNBC's "Options Action," Mike Khouw suggested investors should consider a put spread calendar options strategy in Netflix Inc (NASDAQ: NFLX ) ahead of earnings. The company is reporting earnings ...
This weekend's Barron's cover story examines ways to maximize income in a low-rate environment. Other featured articles discuss a way to play the China trade talks and what a new baby boom means for retail ...
Benzinga has examined the prospects for many investor favorite stocks over the past week. Bullish calls included the iPhone maker, a mining giant and a recent IPO. Bearish calls included beleaguered health ...
Reality is closing in on Netflix. With the stock (NFLX) down 30% over the past three months, poor second-quarter results and signs that third-quarter subscriber numbers (which the company reports on Oct. 16) might be below expectations, the market is no longer buying CEO Reed Hasting’s previous ridiculous claims like that Fortnite and YouTube are Netflix’s primary competitors. While the “sell side” remains bullish, with 70% of Wall Street analysts tracked by FactSet calling Netflix a buy, independent investors are increasingly skeptical of the company’s growth story.
For investors, it could be a costly mistake to be on the wrong side of that debate if Netflix’s stock price marches toward a record $419. The streaming service has done an excellent job penetrating Western Europe, which has fast broadband speeds.