With the next earnings season just around the corner, MarketFoolery host Chris Hill takes the opportunity to ask senior analyst Jim Mueller what he'll be looking out for when those releases start rolling in.
Tariffs will be the thing to watch, says Mueller. He expects to hear plenty about looming pain from President Trump's trade war with China, especially as it relates to margins and companies' cost of inputs. And while it's too early to tell just how much damage the conflict is going to do to the U.S. economy, Mueller expects dimmer forecasts because of it.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Oct. 9, 2018.
Chris Hill: We've got earnings season kicking off at the end of this week. Really starting to heat up next week. What is something you're going to be watching this earnings season?
Jim Mueller: I'm really curious as to how the tariffs and the trade war with China are going to play into earnings of various companies. Even broader than that, basic economic things. For instance, Ford management has already come out and said, "We're going to lose a billion dollars because of this." That was a couple of weeks ago, I think, they said that. I'm interested to see how different types of companies and management might speak to it, how it affects their margins, how it affects their costs of inputs. Companies like Facebook, or Alphabet, or Netflix, probably not too much, because they don't really deal in physical goods. But companies like Apple, for instance. Their phones, a lot of their parts are made over in China. How's that going to affect their margins? And what might happen there?
This quarter might be a little too early to really start looking at this, except for maybe what management has to say about going forward. That $200 billion of goods being taxed now just only recently rolled out.
Hill: In terms of the tariffs, do you expect you could hear something on a conference call, or it comes out in an earnings announcement, that makes you go, "Whoa, I didn't know it was going to affect you that much. I'm now out on this stock." Or, does it make you go, "Alright, now I just need to adjust my expectations."
Mueller: More the latter. The economy and the businesses are so tied together. Take just in time inventory, which so many retailers now use, pioneered by Dell and, I just recently learned, came about because the trucking industry was deregulated, so they could ship things more easily. But now, almost everybody does just in time inventory. How is that going to be affected by the tariffs? How are the ports on the West Coast going to be affected by the tariffs? How are the truckers and the rail companies that move those goods inland going to be affected by the tariffs? It plays into so many different parts of business and the economy that you could be listening to a conference call from somebody and think nothing's going to hurt this company, and then they say, "Our costs are going up 2% this next year because of the tariffs." That would surprise me, because I might not have realized that.
But, because we're long-term investors here, I don't think that's going to make me think I need to get out of the stock, I need to get out of the investment. Companies will adjust. It's going to be painful, but companies have to adjust for all kinds of things all the time. This is just one more headache that they have to adjust to.