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20 Dec 2018

What Q3 earnings told us about investing in corporate America

Now that the dust has settled on the Q3 earnings season in the US, we thought it worthwhile looking back at the results to see what they tell us about corporate America and investing in US equities over the next few months – especially in light of the sharp sell-off of recent weeks. 

Overall, earnings were very strong - with almost all sector and segments beating estimates. At the stock level 80% of companies beat median analyst expectations. NASDAQ 100 companies enjoyed particularly strong results and beat expectations by 10% on average. Companies in the consumer discretionary and energy sectors did even better, with both beating aggregate estimates by 15%.

All good things come to an end

On the flip side, small-caps (as viewed through the lens of the Russell 2000) were one of the few areas to miss expectations and it’s this area that intrigues us most. Given small-caps are more exposed to the domestic economy, less sensitive to dollar moves and thus less affected by a strong dollar, could these results signify the US economic cycle is coming to the end?

The market certainly seems to think so; unlike previous quarters, strong earnings have not been rewarded by investors, with the NASDAQ 100 17% off its September peak by year end. The two champion sectors have suffered even more. Consumer discretionary is 15% below its own September high while energy has fallen even further (down 22%). Domestic-focused areas suffered most however during December’s declines as less dovish Fed and turmoil on the Hill took their toll.

So where should investors look in the US? As the chart below shows that over Q4 2018, lower volatility defensive sectors such as utilities and staples have performed significantly better than the higher risk counterparts despite reporting worse earnings on average. From the risk factor perspective, quality and low volatility indices have performed better. In our view, this show that we are transitioning from an earnings driven market to one more driven by sentiment – and that sentiment has become even more unsettled since the mid-terms. 

A disproportionate reward?

US indices: 3-month returns vs. volatility

chart 1

Source: Bloomberg, Lyxor Asset Management International, data as at 31 December 2018

 Know your indices

Even if President Trump’s fiscal stimulus has done enough to avert the threat of recession until early 2021, gridlock on Capitol Hill could have some serious market and economic consequences. More frequent government shutdowns and more talk of impeachment could be damaging at such a late stage of the cycle – especially as the growing deficit does not leave much room for manoeuvre. Knowing your indices inside out could be more important than ever.

Use our tool, or our guide, to find out more.


Risk Warning​

This document is for the exclusive use of investors acting on their own account and categorised either as “Eligible Counterparties” or “Professional Clients” within the meaning of Markets in Financial Instruments Directive 2014/65/EU. These products comply with the UCITS Directive (2009/65/EC). Société Générale and Lyxor International Asset Management (LIAM) recommend that investors read carefully the “investment risks” section of the product’s documentation (prospectus and KIID). The prospectus and KIID are available free of charge on www.lyxoretf.com, and upon request to client-services-etf@lyxor.com.

The products mentioned are the object of market-making contracts, the purpose of which is to ensure the liquidity of the products on the London Stock Exchange, assuming normal market conditions and normally functioning computer systems. Units of a specific UCITS ETF managed by an asset manager and purchased on the secondary market cannot usually be sold directly back to the asset manager itself. Investors must buy and sell units on a secondary market with the assistance of an intermediary (e.g. a stockbroker) and may incur fees for doing so. In addition, investors may pay more than the current net asset value when buying units and may receive less than the current net asset value when selling them. Updated composition of the product’s investment portfolio is available on www.lyxoretf.com. In addition, the indicative net asset value is published on the Reuters and Bloomberg pages of the product, and might also be mentioned on the websites of the stock exchanges where the product is listed.

Prior to investing in the product, investors should seek independent financial, tax, accounting and legal advice. It is each investor’s responsibility to ascertain that it is authorised to subscribe, or invest into this product. This document is of a commercial nature and not of a regulatory nature. This material is of a commercial nature and not a regulatory nature. This document does not constitute an offer, or an invitation to make an offer, from Société Générale, Lyxor Asset Management (together with its affiliates, Lyxor AM) or any of their respective subsidiaries to purchase or sell the product referred to herein.

Lyxor International Asset Management (LIAM), société par actions simplifiée having its registered office at Tours Société Générale, 17 cours Valmy, 92800 Puteaux (France), 418 862 215 RCS Nanterre, is authorized and regulated by the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) under the UCITS Directive (2009/65/EU) and the AIFM Directive (2011/31/EU). LIAM is represented in the UK by Lyxor Asset Management UK LLP, which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK under Registration Number 435658. Société Générale is a French credit institution (bank) authorised by the Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution (the French Prudential Control Authority).

Research disclaimer

Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) or its employees may have or maintain business relationships with companies covered in its research reports. As a result, investors should be aware that LIAM and its employees may have a conflict of interest that could affect the objectivity of this report. Investors should consider this report as only a single factor in making their investment decision. Please see appendix at the end of this report for the analyst(s) certification(s), important disclosures and disclaimers. Alternatively, visit our global research disclosure website www.lyxoretf.com/compliance.

Conflicts of interest 

This research contains the views, opinions and recommendations of Lyxor International Asset Management (“LIAM”) Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists. To the extent that this research contains trade ideas based on macro views of economic market conditions or relative value, it may differ from the fundamental Cross Asset and ETF Research opinions and recommendations contained in Cross Asset and ETF Research sector or company research reports and from the views and opinions of other departments of LIAM and its affiliates. Lyxor Cross Asset and ETF research analysts and/or strategists routinely consult with LIAM sales and portfolio management personnel regarding market information including, but not limited to, pricing, spread levels and trading activity of ETFs tracking equity, fixed income and commodity indices. Trading desks may trade, or have traded, as principal on the basis of the research analyst(s) views and reports. Lyxor has mandatory research policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to (i) ensure that purported facts in research reports are based on reliable information and (ii) to prevent improper selective or tiered dissemination of research reports. In addition, research analysts receive compensation based, in part, on the quality and accuracy of their analysis, client feedback, competitive factors and LIAM’s total revenues including revenues from management fees and investment advisory fees and distribution fees.

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