U.S. corporate earnings are starting to speak. And from the sound of things, investors ought to beware.
With several large companies out with earnings Wednesday, the macro picture is starting to look even bleaker.
It's the highly cyclical megacap companies that are missing revenue and earnings by considerable margins, while the companies that are showing better results are more defensive and less reflective of economic growth.
Moreover, executives are making clear that the risks to demand are aplenty, lead by the increasingly uncertain trade war between the U.S. and China.
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks started down before rebounding to end the day at a 0.29% gain on the S&P 500. Stocks and earnings told two different stories Wednesday.
Here were the notable developments from U.S. companies:
Caterpillar's Rough Earnings Report
Revenue was $12.75 billion, against analysts' estimates of $13.57 billion, a 6% miss. Earnings per share missed Wall Street expectations by 7.6%, as the result was $2.66, versus estimates of $2.88.
The company lowered full-year EPS guidance to a range between $10.59 and $11.09 from an initial forecast of $12.06 to $13.06.
Management said the results were driven by lower sales volumes resulting from reduced orders from equipment retailers responding to weak end-market demand.
"Webelievedealersreducedinventoryduetouncertaintyintheglobaleconomyresultingfromtradetensionsandotherfactors," said Chairman and CEO James Umpleby on the company's earnings call.
Uncertainty has been a major factor bringing down global demand for goods, as businesses invest less in the face of an unpredictable trade relationship between the U.S. and China.
Boeing's Earnings Miss
Boeing said it expects one major regulator to issue approval for make of its 737 MAX aircraft. This is positive news for Boeing specifically, but does little for sentiment on the macroeconomic environment.
Boeing's revenue has been contracting significantly in 2019, partly due to the 737 problems but also because of the trade war. Executives and analysts mentioned the word "trade" 14 times on the earnings call.
"Global trade tension is putting near term pressure on our wide-body production rates, especially the 787," said Dennis Muilenberg, Boeing's CEO. He noted the broad-based industrial production deceleration as the impact of the trade war spills over into the global economy.
Texas Instruments' Rough Quarter
Semiconductor maker Texas Instruments
said revenue fell 12% to $3.77 billion in the third quarter, missing Wall Street's expectation of $3.82 billion. Earnings per share fell to $1.49, beating analysts' estimate of $1.42.
The company guided for fourth-quarter revenue of between $3.07 billion and $3.33 billion, below the estimate of $3.59 billion.
The word "trade" was mentioned seven times on the earnings call.
The "weakness," the company said on its earnings call, "is due to macro events, and specifically the trade tensions."
It added: "If you think about when there's tensions in trade and obstacles to trade, what do businesses do? They become more cautious and they pull back, and we are at the very end of a long supply chain, and when the ones at the very front pull back, it becomes a traffic jam."
Semiconductors and some of the electronic devices they supply have been subject to tariffs coming into the U.S. from China. Some of those tariffs may escalate in December if there is no trade deal.
Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is up nearly 20% year-to-date and sits at a forward earnings multiple of roughly 17. Some on Wall Street say that's slightly high, others say fairly valued.