Almost 29% of the European main market has reported fourth quarter earnings, with net balance of positive less negative surprises of 19%; above the historical average of +16%. This broadly parallels the US earnings season; the fourth quarter has seen 73% of companies in the S&P 500 beat expectations, second only to the rate of 78.7% for the third quarter of last year.
Earnings and revenue (ex-financials) grew by 13.8% and 3.6% respectively, exceeding expectations by 9.6% and 1.9% correspondingly, which - amidst strong cost control - explains the strong cashflow seen globally.
Of particular note is the technology sector. Here, in the fourth quarter, earnings grew by 57% (against 24% expected) and revenues by 9.3%, with the handover from an inventory to a 'Capex' led recovery disproportionately benefitting this sector. The IT capex can be deferred for a while, the contract size can be reduced, and consultants can become partners in the savings produced by the capex, all of which have the effect of smoothing capex out across the cycle. This is not explicit, and in the case of Telco operators, some big software shifts from wire line management to mobile management are evident, which may prove to be a zero sum game or the beginning of a vast new upgrade cycle. In financial services, despite pent up demand, the resources are not yet available to replace large legacy systems with new architecture (while optimisation software relating to business information tools and the start of virtual desktops are the areas that particularly interest us).
Eoin Treacy's view
Emerging Asia and commodity producing countries are leading the global economy
of out of recession and even countries most affected by the credit crisis now
appear to be on a sounder footing. Monetary conditions remain accommodative
across most of the world's largest economies and the focus of attention has
been more on how to remove stimulus rather than tighten conditions.
Against this background, a common theme among the better performing stocks has been leverage to the global economy. Cash generative companies with dependable, recognisable brands, leveraged to the needs, and increasingly wants, of the growing emerging market consumer base continue to attract investor interest.
Technology remains a favourite Fullermoney theme. Related shares that dominate their niche continues to lead there respective markets higher, whether in the USA, Israel, Taiwan or other markets. (Also see Comment of the Day on March 5th). Food companies such as Nestle and Unilever are clear examples of companies leveraged to greater consumption. (Also see Comment of the Day on February 19th). Industrials such as Siemens and GE share a similar chart pattern and are export oriented companies for their respective countries. Globally oriented commercial banks such as HSBC offer access to growth in demand for services across the emerging markets (Also see Comment of Day on February 26th).
Globally significant stock markets have completed mean reversions, defined by the 200-day moving average, within their medium-term uptrends and an increasing number are breaking to new recovery highs. As early as July last year, it was evident that large caps were leading their respective indices higher and this remains the case today. Failed upside breaks would be required to question potential for further upside in the short term, while sustained moves below ascending 200-day moving averages would be required to question the consistency of medium-term uptrends.