Uncertainty Over U.S. Presidential Election May Be Cooling Starbucks' Global Business

Updated to include comments from Starbucks' conference call.

Starbucks (SBUX) executives probably can't wait until Nov. 9, which is the day after Election Day in the United States. 

"I would label this time as one with a high degree of uncertainty -- domestically driven -- but it has affected the rest of the world. Where we have visited, we have never witnessed such concern as a result of the (U.S. presidential) election," Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told analysts on a conference call Thursday evening.

Schultz, who endorsed presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in September, added, "It's very hard to cut through the noise and get our message to the consumer."

The noise emanating from the contentious battle for the U.S. presidency -- whether on 24/7 cable news networks or on social media -- appeared to take its toll on how consumers globally interacted with Starbucks in its most recent quarter. It also looks as if election outcome uncertainty was a factor in Starbucks offering mixed guidance for the first half of its new fiscal year. 

In spite of a host of new drinks and foods and a growing mobile presence, Starbucks said on Thursday that customer traffic in the U.S. fell 1% in the fiscal fourth quarter. Starbucks pinned the traffic fall on the estimated impact of order consolidation related to changes to its loyalty program. In April, Starbucks moved from rewarding members based on the number of times visited to how much they spend. 

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