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CPI, Q3 Earnings: Perking, but No Froth

Zacks

Friday, October 13, 2017

New pre-market reads this morning from important inflation metrics and some of the largest companies on Wall Street inform this Friday the 13th. Results are not scary (which should be a relief to the superstitious among us). Instead, they look to be fairly Goldilocks-like: pointed in the right direction, but still under control.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), like the Producer Price Index (PPI) that came out ahead of the opening bell yesterday, ratcheted up noticeably in September: +0.5% (PPI was +0.4%). This was 10 basis points lower than expected, but still robust. A half a percentage point gain month over month helps agencies like the Fed make up their minds about raising interest rates, likely at its December meeting. (Odds for this occurring are now over 90%.) Year over year, the CPI is +2.2%.

Stripping out volatile food and energy costs, the CPI was only +0.1, whereas +0.2% had been expected. Which means that, although increased pricing is going to help get inflation up to the Fed’s desired 2%, the majority of these gains month over month may be a little more fluid. It may not be ideal, but it is a position we’ve gotten used to with incremental changes on this sort of economic data.

Retail Sales in September also rose, this time by +1.6%. Again, a tenth of a point lower than expected, but still in the right direction for seeing the positive influence of inflation affecting our economy. Ex-automobile sales, retail sales dips to +1.0%, which is higher than the +0.8% analysts had anticipated. More data to support the narrative that the economy is perking, but without froth.

Q3 Earnings Results

Both Bank of America BAC and Wells Fargo WFC posted Q3 earnings results ahead of regular trading today. While BofA beat on the bottom line by 2 cents per share and narrowly squeaked a positive surprise in revenues, Wells Fargo met the Zacks earnings consensus exactly but came up short on quarterly payments.

Bank of America has beaten earnings estimates for at least the past five quarters in a row, at an average of 12.5% over the trailing four quarters. The big bank’s 48 cents per share was a more modest improvement over the 46 cents expected. Despite a weaker trading quarter, revenues of $22.1 billion beat the $22.0 billion in the Zacks consensus, and bettered the $21.9 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Wells Fargo reported litigation expenses of $1 billion to help account for its $1.04 earnings per share, in-line with our consensus. Interestingly, this chunk set aside for litigation is not related to Wells Fargo’s fake account scandal, which will require further capital outlays over time to right this part of the ship. Wells’ Efficiency Ratio (non-interest expense/revenues) ballooned up to 65.5% in the quarter, though subtracting one-off payments like this litigation expense, this number falls to 61%, a full percentage point improvement quarter over quarter.

Wells Fargo shares are trading down roughly 2.5% ahead of the opening bell. Bank of America shares are flat pre-open, after a slight sell-off from earlier this month, remain trading at multi-year highs.

Mark Vickery
Senior Editor

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