Updated from 7:00 a.m. with new survey details
The loose cannon who is President-elect Donald Trump will take to a stage on Wednesday and lay out some form of vision for the U.S. economy, which so happens to coincide with stock prices getting a touch more volatile amid the uncertainty over the real estate mogul's first few months in office.
Yet, despite the looming handover of power to a clear Twitter addict, it seems that Corporate America is feeling just fine and dandy to kick off the new year. In other words, CEOs are their usual optimistic selves even as a Trump presidency could lead to penalizing cross-border taxes and a ratcheting up of geopolitical risk. Aside from JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon voicing confidence in the U.S. economy this week (per his usual), General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra emphatically planted a flag in the ground.
On Tuesday, General Motors pegged earnings to rise a solid 8% to 9% in 2017, knowing full well that one tweet from Trump about the brand could indeed whack sales (see Trump's impact on Macy's (M) ). Meanwhile, GM said it will buy back an additional $5 billion worth of its own shares, which sent shares of the automaker to near a new 52-week high on Tuesday.
After spending three full days talking to CEOs of private and public companies at this week's ICR Conference, I can tell you that expressions of optimism about the year ahead have been the name of the game. This year's conference has felt eerily as upbeat as last year, in spite of the wildcard that is Trump. And it shows up in some data.
Out of 182 respondents to a survey conducted by ICR at the event -- ranging from CEOs to other industry influencers -- most said they remained positive on the outlook for the economy for the year ahead, with 78.6% responding in the positive range. Less than 5% were in the negative territory.
Here are a couple things that stuck out from what CEOs told me regarding the health of the economy:
"The good news right now when it comes to minimum wage is that you have an economy where the unemployment rate is pretty low. What we think about more than anything else is that employed people buy more pizza than unemployed people." -- Domino's Pizza (DPZ) CEO Patrick Doyle.
"When we deliver innovation, we see no resistance to price points for new fabrics and designs. If you were in our stores during the holiday season, they were packed -- our conversion was outstanding." - Lululemon (LULU) CEO Laurent Potdevin.
In all the presentations I've been at, in not one was there an outline about a slashing of capital expenditure budgets for 2017 or some sort of mass layoff plan.
So yeah, optimism among many CEOs continues to reign supreme. Now if that translates into an upbeat fourth-quarter earnings season this month that sends the Dow Jones Industrial Average blowing past 20,000 (as Kiss legend Gene Simmons -- who was also optimistic on the economy -- suggested to me in the video below) only time will tell. Already, lubricants makers WD-40 (WDFC) has gained the unenviable position as being the first multinational that whiffed on earnings due to sales challenges in the U.S. and overseas (notably in Trump's favorite country of Mexico).
Let's see ifTrump could create some hope at his presser on Wednesday. If he does, investors may have reason to gain back their optimisim.
Cool Reads From Around the Web
Key McDonald's executive says goodbye to former boss: Former White Press Secretary Robert Gibbs turned McDonald's (MCD) director of communications found time to escape articulating the world's largest restaurant company's message to say goodbye to his former boss President Obama on Tuesday evening. Gibbs' hiring, according to people I have talked to, has been a disappointment -- more of a figurehead hiring as opposed to a landing of someone that could transform how the company communicates with global influencers. And that's too bad as Mickey D's could certainly use a better relationship with the media.
Shares of McDonald's have been relatively unchanged since McDonald's announced that it hired Gibbs on June 9, 2016. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, in which McDonald's is a component, has surged 10%.
Ultimate lack of confidence in Twitter's future: This isn't so much a cool read as it's a fun, yet telling fact: shares of Twitter (TWTR) have badly lagged a Nasdaq Composite that his ripped to a historical high. Twitter's stock has plunged 8.2% over the past month as the struggling social media's talent exodus continues. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq has tacked on about 2.5% during that same stretch.