One of America’s biggest companies had an awful second quarter… and it’s blaming China.
United Technologies (UTX) makes industrial goods like elevators, air conditioning systems, and jet engines. It’s a huge company. At $91 billion, it’s worth more than Starbucks (SBUX) or United Parcel Service (UPS).
The company announced bad second quarter results on Tuesday. Revenues fell 5% from last year. Earnings fell 6%.
The Wall Street Journal explains how China’s slowing economy hurt United Technologies:
Softness in China dragged down results across segments. Sales of [the elevator segment] fell 10% in China, and the climate, controls and security segment posted a 15% decline in orders in the country.
Management also lowered guidance because of “a slowing China.” The Chinese economy grew 7% in the first quarter of 2015. This was its slowest quarter since 2009.
Management said sales for 2015 should be about $57-$58 billion. That’s $1 billion less than its last estimate.
During yesterday’s earnings call, the CEO of United Technologies said, “a significant slowdown of construction markets in China has caused us to reevaluate our outlook.”
He also noted that the “property market’s come down a lot faster in China than we expected. We’ve seen a lot of pressure there.”
The company’s chief financial officer added, “The China market has clearly slowed. Real estate investment, new construction starts, and floor space sold are all under pressure.”
United Technologies’ stock fell 7% yesterday. It was the stock’s worst day since September 2011.
• China isn’t the only thing US companies are complaining about…
According to investment research firm FactSet, the strong dollar is the number one complaint of US companies in their second quarter earnings reports.
The dollar is up 21% in the last year compared to an index of major currencies. When the dollar rises, US firms earn less on goods they sell to foreign countries.
Yum! Brands (YUM), which owns fast food companies like KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, said on its earnings call:
…foreign currency translation remains a strong headwind as we continue to expect this to impact full year EPS by about five percentage points.
Sherwin-Williams (SHW), a large US paint maker, is also blaming the strong dollar for its weak growth. On its July 16 earnings call, management said:
Sales volumes in most of our non-domestic businesses were positive. But growth was insufficient to offset the drag from currency devaluation, which was slightly worse than anticipated in the quarter.
The strong dollar is even hurting Pepsico (PEP), North America’s largest food and beverage company:
Foreign exchange translation should have an approximate 11-point unfavorable impact on the third quarter net revenue growth, and approximate 12-point unfavorable impact on third quarter core EPS growth based on current market consensus rates.”
The dollar surged 23% from July 2014 to March 2015. Since then, it’s been consolidating, as you can see in this chart:
If the dollar breaks higher, US companies that sell goods abroad will continue to struggle.
• Meanwhile, an American business icon is using the strong dollar as an excuse…
International Business Machines (IBM) had a bad quarter too. Its sales and earnings both fell 13% from a year ago.
IBM is one of America’s oldest technology companies. It used to be a powerhouse in personal computing. Today, IBM mostly serves other businesses. It runs servers that manage networks of computers, and it helps companies store huge amounts of data.
Like other companies, IBM blames its bad quarter on the strong dollar. IBM earns over half its revenue in foreign markets.
Martin Schroeter, chief financial officer of IBM, said:
Currency drove the largest year-to-year impact given the strengthening dollar. We continue to generate significant profits in cash flow in local currencies, but the translation of those currencies back to US dollars significantly affects our reported profit growth.
But his comments ignore that IBM’s sales have declined for 13 straight quarters. IBM can’t blame that on the strong dollar. Last quarter, revenues dropped in all five of the company’s segments.
E.B. Tucker, editor of The Casey Report, had this to say about IBM:
IBM is in a tough spot. It borrowed money to increase its dividend and to buy back shares. This made shareholders happy for a while… they liked getting cash. But now, IBM has all this debt and nothing to show for it.
It’s not surprising that the company isn’t growing. That’s what happens when you borrow to spend instead of borrowing to invest.
IBM has had trouble keeping up with younger, more innovative tech companies like Google, which reported blowout earnings last Thursday.
The NASDAQ, an index heavy on tech companies, is up 44% in the past two years. IBM is down 18%.