Every week, Goldman pens a couple of lines that give us a little insight into what “clients are saying.”
If you’re like me, you probably think that “what clients are saying” is something akin to the following:
Hey Goldman, we understand that Gary Cohn, the former number two at the firm, is now making policy in the Trump administration and we know you’ve talked to Gary since he was appointed, so why don’t you tell us what the f*ck is up?
So that’s what clients are really saying, but that doesn’t sound very good coming from a company whose CEO just got finished blasting Trump’s immigration policy, so instead we get the following…
As firms have released their backward-looking earnings results, investors have remained focused on forward-looking macroeconomic and policy-related issues. 55% of S&P 500 companies (275 out of 500) have reported earnings so far this season. Results have been almost exactly in line with history. 47% of firms beat consensus EPS estimates and 29% exceeded sales forecasts by at least one standard deviation compared with historical averages of 46% and 31%. 39% of stocks missed 4Q EPS and 24% missed sales forecasts, in line with the respective 10-year averages.
Investors are intently focused on potential tax reform, but the political calendar suggests finalized policies may not be adopted until late 2017. Uncertainty will remain high in the interim. Most client questions related to policy include corporate tax rates, destination-based taxes, net interest deductibility and capital expensing, fiscal spending, and regulation.
Stock return dispersion will rise in 2017 given high policy uncertainty. Since the election, sector and stock correlations have plunged. S&P 500 3-month return dispersion, measured as the cross-sectional standard deviation of constituent returns, has climbed to 26 percentage points (pp) (48th percentile) from 21 pp (11th percentile) since the election. Among sectors, Industrials dispersion has risen sharply to 29 pp (81st percentile) from 18 pp (18th percentile) prior to the election.
As for where to invest, try “focusing” on aerospace and defense…
A&D stocks will be direct beneficiaries of any increase in the defense budget. In 2016, A&D stocks beat the S&P 500 by 6 pp alongside a 2% increase in national defense outlays. Our political economist expects defense spending will rise starting in October 2017 when FY 2018 appropriations begin
We suggest investors focus on two S&P 500 Aerospace & Defense stocks that are Buy-rated by our equity analyst. At this time next year, when investors value stocks on the outlook for 2018, we expect increased defense spending will drive accelerating sales and EPS growth for Northrup Grumman and L-3 Technologies. Given the uncertainty around Trump tax proposals, we expect these stocks will outperform the S&P 500 irrespective of the final outcomes. In contrast, we forecast a 1% return for S&P 500 in 2017.
Makes sense. After all…