Kass: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
By Doug Kass 01/15/13 - 06:00 AM EST
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The Earnings Cliff Is Upon Us
The fiscal drag may be understated both on domestic economic growth and profit expectations. Though the drag from the fiscal cliff agreement appears to many to be a manageable $250 billion-$280 billion (or less than -0.80% taken off U.S. GDP), the actual multiplier of this drag is greater than most are projecting (over -1.5%). Consensus domestic economic growth expectations may be overstated. Moreover, there should be additional drags from spending cuts in the upcoming debates. Consensus real GDP growth in the U.S. is about +2.5% -- I expect no better than +1.5%. In terms of S&P profits, the "V" in profits and profit margins since 2008 is likely over. Already margins in fourth quarter 2012 are expected to drop from 9.5% to 9.1% sequentially. Consensus 2013 S&P profits are about $107 a share, top-down estimates are about $108 a share, and bottom-up estimates are north of $112 a share. I live at $95-$97 a share, which, if accurate, will be a big disappointment (and will almost negate the possibility of multiple expansion, which has become the meme of strategists). The early fourth-quarter earnings report card is unimpressive. For example, Wells Fargo (WFC) had a slight penny beat, but its effective tax rate fell from 34% to 27% and mortgage originations slipped by $15 billion, to $125 billion sequentially.