This morning (Thursday), General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) reported second-quarter earnings. The market didn't like what it saw - GM stock sank by 4.46% to close at $35.74 per share.
Editor's Note: Bill Patalon's readers enjoy inside access to his regular consultations with Money Map Press editors. We're sharing this conversation with you today because the subject happens to lie at the intersection of several high-profit trends now. Here's Bill...
Last Wednesday, the Milpitas, Calif.-based SanDisk Corporation (Nasdaq: SNDK) reported first-quarter results that smashed analyst expectations, and the company's shares shot up 6% in after-hours trading.
But our Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald saw that beat coming and put readers out in front of it.
It's earnings season. And for company players, the game is about trying to beat analysts' estimates, to get your company's stock to pop so you look better than your reflection.
But the game is rigged. And like high-frequency trading and so many other "institutionalized" games on the Street that are sucking the life out of other people's dreams, it's not illegal.
It hasn't been an easy year for JPMorgan: There was the London Whale scandal, which cost the Big Bank more than $6.2 billion. Fallout from the mortgage crisis brought a $13 billion fine. And just recently JPM had to shell out another $2 billion in fines for its role in the Bernie Madoff scheme. So earnings had to be awful, right? Not exactly.
The aluminum producer, which always kicks off the earnings season, delivered more of a punt than a kickoff. The Dow bellwether reported an 81.3% drop in profits, as the global slowdown and production cuts weighed on profits.
Reporting after Monday's market close, Alcoa said income from continuing operations came in at $61 million, or 6 cents a share, on revenue just a hair under $6 billion. While significantly lower than the same period a year ago, the lackluster results still managed to beat Wall Street's tepid expectations (analysts were looking for 5 cents on revenue of $5.8 billion).
Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said in a statement following the earnings release, "Alcoa maintained revenue strength amid solid liquidity by driving high profitability in our mid and downstream businesses and by reducing costs and improving performance in our upstream businesses."
Contributing to the profit decline was a global glut resulting from stagnant and slowing growth in many areas around the world, especially China.
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Weak corporate tax collections in the first quarter and through April 11 could mean that many quarterly earnings reports may surprise the market by failing to meet analysts' inflated expectations. Either corporate profits are falling sharply or else corporations have suddenly become much savvier about offshoring income and avoiding taxes. While they may be getting better at avoiding taxes, it seems unlikely that they've suddenly all become such geniuses at it simultaneously. My bet would be that when everybody has reported, aggregate earnings will fall short of consensus estimates.
The Treasury Department publishes daily data on tax collections. As of 5 PM each weekday it releases the Daily Treasury Statement for the previous day. That's as close as we can get to a real time economic barometer short of being at the cash register. It's definitely useful in gauging whether subsequent corporate earnings reports will meet, beat, or miss expectations. Corporate tax collections and subsequent reported aggregate earnings have correlated well historically, not just in terms of the trend, but even to the extent that the peaks and valleys in tax collections are echoed at lower amplitude in the earnings line.