ClearBridge's Cohen: Never Mind the Shutdown, Earnings Are Already Tepid

Wednesday, 16 Oct 2013 01:35 PM

By John Morgan

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The stock market may rally with a government debt limit deal, but an underlying problem — the fact that stock prices are growing faster than earnings are — may reveal itself shortly thereafter with dismaying results, according to Hersh Cohen, co-chief investment officer at ClearBridge Investments.

Cohen told Yahoo he suspects stocks will go higher if a deal is reached to end the government shutdown, but said caution would be advised in the wake of it.

"I think the odds are probably 60 percent that you get a 'chase the market' [reaction]," he said.

Editor’s Note:
5 Reasons Stocks Will Collapse . . .

"We'll probably struggle higher here, maybe even make a new high. The real problem here is revenues and earnings . . . the market's up 17 or 18 percent this year and earnings are up 6 percent."

Cohen believes the languishing rate of earnings growth is a continued hangover from the 2008 financial meltdown and the resulting deep recession.

"Look, 2008 was an asset collapse," he stated. "It wasn't your garden variety recession."

Earnings results at companies that he follows closely — some of them consumer bellwethers — such as Target, Wal-Mart and United Parcel Service, are not exactly hitting the cover off the ball, he told Yahoo.

Footnoted.com, a website that follows corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, reported that more companies are beginning to mention the government shutdown in their routine filings.

Those companies, only about 15 so far, are hinting that the shutdown could begin to affect their finance results, according to Footnoted. While there are no loud alarm bells yet, apparently that could change.

Footnoted said "if things drag on much longer without a resolution, we expect that there will be a lot more companies talking about this in their filings. Earnings are in full swing and [Form 10-Q filing] season is just around the corner."

At the end of September, U.S. companies issuing warnings about their third-quarter earnings results — in effect, issuing negative outlooks — were at the second highest level since 2001, Reuters reported.

Technology and consumer discretionary stocks have been the source of the most third-quarter warnings, according to Reuters.

Editor’s Note: 5 Reasons Stocks Will Collapse . . .

Related Stories:

MSN's Jim Jubak: A Stock Rally Could Last Until December

Marc Faber: Pray All Asset Classes Don't Collapse at the Same Time

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