RANDY FREDERICK: Global markets are in rally mode, shaking off fears from the Brexit, to terrorist attacks, even an attempted coup d’état. Jeff Kleintop, Schwab’s chief global investment strategist, joins me for the July 26 Schwab Market Snapshot to discuss why the markets are seemingly ignoring these shocking geopolitical events. Welcome back, Jeff.
JEFF KLEINTOPP: Thanks, Randy. It’s always great to be here.
RANDY: So, Jeff, first it was the Brexit, then it was the terrorist attack in France—and even the Turkish political coup—and through all of these events the global markets just seemed to be barely fazed. Have these things just become so common that we’re all just numb to them, or is there something else going on?
JEFF: Well, Randy, I think one of the reasons for the change in how the market’s reacted to these types of events you mentioned is the fact that earnings estimates are back on the rise.
Analysts’ estimates of earnings per share for the global companies in the MSCI World Index bottomed back in late February—they’ve been on the rise since then. And that’s right around when the turnaround in the stock market took place as well.
And that end of what had been a long downtrend—of lasting about a year and a half in earnings estimates—has really helped to support stocks in the face of these geopolitical developments.
It’s interesting to note even the so-called fear gauges, like the VIX and the VSTOXX in Europe, are down to some of the lows we’ve seen over the last five years or so, really helping to calm a lot of fears.
RANDY: So you’re saying this focus on earnings is essentially overshadowing these negative events, but that doesn’t always happen, does it?
JEFF: Well, you’re exactly right. We have to keep in mind that this goes both ways. The impact of the trend in earnings estimates, should they roll back over again, isn’t going to leave a lot of buffer there for stocks to be as resilient to these geopolitical risks.
RANDY: So over the past several months the trend in global earnings expectations has actually been increasing. So what is it that’s driving this optimism among the analysts?
JEFF: Well, I think analysts seem to be catching up with surprisingly good economic data, or at least better-than-expected data.
The rebound in earnings estimates tracks really closely with the positive surprises we’ve seen over the last five months or so in economic data—not that the data’s been great—but better than expected. And that’s forced analysts to also look at their estimates and revise them higher—maybe they’ve been a bit too pessimistic.
RANDY: So if I understand correctly there are reasons for global optimism, but some of the data still seems a bit ambiguous. So what are you expecting going forward with regard to global GDP growth? And will that be sufficient enough to continue to drive higher earnings?
JEFF: Well, you know, the IMF just came out in the past week here with their revised estimates for global growth post-Brexit—and they took down their estimate, not surprisingly, for 2016 and 2017—but only by 1/10 of a percent. So they’re expecting about the same growth this year as last year—that’s 3.1%, and 3.4% next year, so just a little bit of a step up for 2017.
So while the growth outlook is relatively stable, it remains below average and vulnerable to shocks. And so really without much stronger economic growth, earnings may stabilize. But they’re unlikely to stage a very powerful rebound, so let’s just hope that growth continues to surprise to the upside and continues to support upward earnings revisions.
RANDY: That’s really interesting. I’d like to step back a moment to what you mentioned earlier about the improved earnings outlook that you discussed. Does this trend cover all of the market sectors, or are there specific sectors that maybe still require a little bit of extra caution?
JEFF: You know, it’s very broad, actually, even in Europe, where we had the Brexit vote and a lot of concerns about growth there. We continue to see data come in better than expected and analyst estimates move higher.
Across countries that’s the case pretty broadly. But across sectors, too, we’ve seen almost all the sectors—eight of 10 sectors, that have seen upward revisions—really the only one that’s showing any downward revision is the financial sector.
And that’s really the case because we’re seeing long-term interest rates continue to come down. Were they to stabilize, we might start to see those estimates turn around as well, and that will be a real plus—if we finally saw the financial sector begin to turn around, it could really help give a second wind to overall estimates. And that’s really the key, and it’s why this is so important for stock market investors to watch.
A sustained rebound in earnings growth can really provide a second wind for stock markets around the world that may be tiring out as they’ve finally gotten back to all-time highs.
RANDY: Thank you so much, Jeff. So if I understand this correctly, it sounds like the global story is actually pretty positive overall.
Listen, if you’ve got questions we would encourage you to call and talk to a Schwab financial professional. If you want to read more from Jeff, you can do that in the Investing Insights section of Schwab.com. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffreyKleintop, and of course you can always follow me on Twitter @RandyAFrederick. We will be back again. Until next time, invest wisely. Own your tomorrow.