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Friday, January 31, 2014

Disappointing Corporate Earnings Rattle Investors

It’s been a bad stretch for the stock markets. Some are saying it’s the result of turbulence in emerging markets. Others say it’s due to less-than-stellar corporate earnings.

Marty Schenker of Bloomberg News joins Here & Nows Jeremy Hobson to discuss why the stock markets have been suffering.




This is HERE AND NOW from NPR and WBUR Boston. I'm Jeremy Hobson.

A big drop at the open on Wall Street this morning, after a bad stretch for the stock market in recent weeks. Some are saying it's the result of turbulence in emerging markets. Others say it's due to less than stellar corporate earnings right here in the U.S. Marty Schenker is executive editor of Top News for Bloomberg. He's with us now. Hi, Marty.


HOBSON: Well, let's talk about some of these corporate earnings and what's going on. And we should start with what happened today. Wal-Mart reporting that fourth quarter and the full-year earnings may be lower than expected. What's going on at Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer?

SCHENKER: Well, it's a story that Wal-Mart, unfortunately for them, have been saying for quite a while now. They are, you know, a big discount retailer, and they are finding competition in a lot of places. So they also blamed reduction in food stamp payments during the quarter, and they also said there was weather involvement. But to my mind, I mean, there's weather all the time...


SCHENKER: ...every year. So I think it's really competitive pressure in Wal-Mart. They have a new CEO taking over tomorrow, and that will be a challenge for them.

HOBSON: Well - and the other question is with a company like Wal-Mart, is you have to wonder when the economy gets better. Sometimes, Wal-Mart can do worse because people are going into Wal-Mart for the low prices that they advertise.

SCHENKER: Absolutely true. And it's always been this real balance that they had to strike. You know, you still can't forget that Wal-Mart is still one of the largest companies in the world, and their sales are humongous.

HOBSON: What about Chevron, another company that has just reported saying its profits are down 32 percent?

SCHENKER: Yeah. They're another one of the major oil companies that are finding unanticipated costs and trying to find more oil and gas to sell in the middle of a period where prices are going down. And it may not feel that way to consumers, but, actually, oil prices during that period went down a bit. And their cost, they have a major project on Australia that is costing them. It's a $54-billion project, and it's really costing them a lot of money. And that's in the middle of the crisis(ph). So they're taking a hit and ExxonMobil did earlier.

HOBSON: And Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, also showing some trouble, as well as Mattel, the toymaker. I guess, they're - I'm not joking about this. There weren't as many Barbie sales, right?

SCHENKER: That's right, Barbies and toy cars. Mattel, I think, Barbie sales were down 13 percent. And I guess parents are buying their kids iPads and not Barbies.

HOBSON: Hmm. Marty, is there a theme, a common theme that runs through all of these? Are these just individual companies with their individual problems? And when investors take a look at the whole package, they're seeing trouble.

SCHENKER: I think it is that, that these are individual issues for each individual company. And you have to also remember that there are some companies that did very well in the quarter. Facebook beat - just hit a record. Their earnings surpassed expectations, as well as Caterpillar and Boeing. So it's an individual story for each company. And don't forget, everybody is still projecting the economy is going to grow next year.

HOBSON: Although you look at this month, it was the S&P's first negative January since 2010.

SCHENKER: Yeah. And that's called the January effect. And there's this conventional wisdom that so goes January, so goes the rest of the year. But there's analysis out there that shows that it's just not true. That most of the time, from February to December, stocks actually rise when stocks fall in January.

HOBSON: So people on Wall Street are excited that tomorrow we'll be in February.

SCHENKER: Yeah. And it could be that this is a buying opportunity if you feel adventurous.

HOBSON: Marty Schenker, executive editor of Top News for Bloomberg. Thanks so much as always.

SCHENKER: You're welcome.

HOBSON: This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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