Financial markets around the world are going through significant volatility lately, and there are growing concerns about the possibility of a global recession making things worse for investors in the coming months. In this context, let's listen to what top executives from JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI), and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (NYSE:TSM) have to say about the health of the global economy.
JP Morgan is cautiously optimistic
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon believes that the U.S. economy remains quite solid when looking at the major indicators in areas such as employment, household formation, and credit quality. During JPMorgan's latest conference call, Dimon said:
We're not forecasting a recession. We think the U.S. economy looks pretty good at this point. ... The U.S. economy has been chugging along at 2% to 2.5% growth for better part of five years now. In the last two years it has created 5 million jobs. And when you look at the actual household formation, car sales, wage[s], people working, it still looks OK. Corporate credit is quite good. Small business formation, it's not back to where it was but it's quite good. Household formation is going up.
JPMorgan says that the slowdown in China won't necessarily derail the global economy as companies are adapting to the situation: "People are getting adjusted to China slowing down."
Dimon also highlighted during the conference call that falling commodity prices can have a material negative impact on particular companies and countries, but consumers and other nations benefit from this trend. This suggests that the massive decline in oil and other commodities is not necessarily bad news for the global economy as a whole.
When you have commodity prices go down like that there are big winners and losers. The oil companies are the losers. Consumers are the benefit. Brazil gets hurt. India benefits. South Korea benefits. ... It's not the beginning of something really bad.
Darden Restaurants is not too concerned about discretionary consumer spending
Darden Restaurants delivered pretty solid results for the fourth quarter, and the company is clearly doing better than most competitors. This says more about Darden Restaurants in particular than about the industry in general. However, it's worth noting that Darden Restaurants CEO Gene Lee is seeing strong consumer demand.
I would say that the consumer has been consistent quarter-to-quarter in our observations, it is still buying a little less on daily using the whole menu. They are buying appetizers, they are buying desserts, they are buying high-value items. We are seeing a lot of migration into the $9.99 Cucina Mia in Olive Garden. But an interesting dynamic with that is that over 50% of people that buy that item will add on to it and turn it into a $12.99 entree by adding some protein. I like the environment we are operating in, and I think the consumer is going to value, but value today isn't all about price.
Taiwan Semiconductor on the potential for a rebound in China demand
Mark Liu, CEO of Taiwan Semiconductor, is expecting soft demand in the first quarter of 2016, but the executive is also seeing signs of a recovery in the following quarters. On Taiwan Semiconductor's fourth-quarter earnings conference call, Liu said:
For our first quarter 2016 this quarter, we see a reduction of high-end smartphone demand. On the other hand, demand for smartphones in China and other emergent markets shows signs of recovery with a upward momentum. We thus forecast a mild revenue decline of minus 1.3% to minus 2.7% quarter-to-quarter for the first quarter 2016. ... Beyond the first quarter of 2016, we expect to be back to a growth trajectory.
The global economy is always changing, and it's hard to tell what could happen in the middle term, especially in the context of rising market volatility and increased uncertainty in emerging markets. On the other hand, judging by recent comments from top executives at JPMorgan, Darden Restaurants, and Taiwan Semiconductors, the economic environment looks much healthier than what you'd expect by looking at slumping stock prices.