This is More Than Just a Tax Rally
December 1, 2017
The market took off yesterday on news that Senator John McCain – many of whom believed to be an entrenched “no” vote – would support the Senate tax bill. There is no doubt investors are clamoring for lower taxes as they lead to bigger earnings, which are the ultimate key to market valuation. Plus, this would give businesses room to hire more workers and make greater long-term investments.
Still, I urge investors and would-be investors to understand that the most important driver of this rally is a reawakening of the American DNA. Its historical inclination is to lead and excel. It’s not a political comment to say that corporate America spent the past eight years in a foxhole while the American consumer played it close to the vest after losing confidence.
The good news is that that confidence is coming back. One way to measure it is through corporate revenue growth, which had been in a tailspin since 2011 with five of the last seven quarters coming into 2017 seeing declines. That is changing big time now. In the second quarter, S&P revenue grew 4.3%. And in the third quarter (so far 98% of names have reported) that number has accelerated to 5.8%.
Then there are corporate earnings, which can be impacted by many things including corporate share buybacks and, of course, taxes. Last quarter, 74% of companies beat on the bottom line for a blended growth rate of 6.3% – two times more than expected. Currently, Wall Street anticipates even more robust growth for both earnings and revenue going into the first half of 2018.
And keep in mind this is all before the GOP tax plan is implemented.
Just look at yesterday’s winners. They reflect renewed Main Street enthusiasm and underscore the magic that could come with a sharp reduction of the tax reform:
Retailers: Kroger (KR) shot up 6% yesterday after reporting results that wowed investors with strong comparable-store sales. And Costco Wholesale’s (COST) comparable-store sales, excluding gas, are up a very impressive 8.4% in the U.S. Both retailers paid an effective tax rate of 32.8% last year.
Transportation: This group as a whole enjoyed a strong session. The biggest winner in the Dow Jones Transportation Index (DJT) was Southwest Airlines (LUV), which was up 3%. Last year the company paid an effective tax rate of 36.7%.
Financials: A combination of moderately-paced interest rate hikes and the stronger economy will help money center banks as well as regionals. Yesterday, Goldman Sachs (GS) climbed 2.6%, and the company pays an effective tax rate of 28.2%.
The bottom line is this: The economy is on a roll, from a manufacturing renaissance to consumer confidence to corporate profits. It’s not going to stop even if the Republicans snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory – which they won’t.
Yes, volatility could increase and there could be some selling as more news comes out. But the investment proposition goes well beyond tax reform. America is back, and this rally still has a long way to go.