America's biggest companies have larger worries than Trump's tariffs

  • Third-quarter earnings season is here and America's biggest companies are most concerned about FX headwinds impacting their results.

  • More than 60% of companies that have reported so far mentioned FX/currency as the biggest negative impact to results either now or in the future.

  • One-third of companies that have already reported cited President Donald Trump's tariffs as their biggest concern.

Third-quarter earnings season kicked off last week and while President Donald Trump's tariffs have been grabbing the headlines recently for their potential impact on corporate earnings, America's biggest companies have some even bigger concerns.

FactSet analyst John Butters combed through the earnings call transcripts of the 24 companies that reported through October 11 and found that mentions of FX/currency (15 times) outpaced tariffs (6) by more than two-to-one. In fact, Trump's tariffs weren't even in the top three of corporate worries as raw material and other inflation (8) and wage & labor costs (7) were bigger concerns.

"Foreign exchange has been cited by more than 60% of the companies that have reported to date (15) as a factor that either had a negative impact on earnings or revenues in Q3 or is expected to have a negative impact on earnings and revenues in future quarters," Butters wrote in a blog post on Friday.

"The number of companies citing a negative impact from FX in Q3 is 25% higher than the number of companies that cited a negative impact from this factor in Q2 (12) at about the same point in time."

The US dollar has rallied 3.28% this year versus a basket of its peers, and holds about 8% below its strongest level since 2002. A stronger dollar is a headwind for the largest S&P 500 companies that generate a chunk of their sales in weaker foreign currencies. That's because they see their earnings shrink when they are translated back to the dollar.

The strong dollar will be in focus on Tuesday as Netflix is set to report its quarterly results after the closing bell. The streaming giant's international revenue surpassed its US revenue for the first time in the second quarter, and its possible the impact pops up in Tuesday's report. Earlier in October, a team of Goldman Sachs analysts led by Heath Terry said 2018-2020 revenue and EBITDA could be impacted by up to 20 basis points as a result.

As for Trump's tariffs, Butters says they are something to keep an eye on as a growing number of companies are mentioning them on their earnings calls.

"It is interesting to note that the term "tariff" has been mentioned during the earnings calls of 12 S&P 500 companies to date, with six of these 12 companies citing a negative impact linked to tariffs," Butters noted.

"This number is up from just one company citing a negative impact from tariffs through the same point in time in Q2."

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