Spending Cuts Are a Major Earnings Theme

 | Jul 12, 2012 | 8:35 AM EDT
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What the heck happened to spending? Everywhere we turn, we see that spending has been cut. We look at Adtran (ADTN) last night, a run-of-the-mill supplier to the telcos, and it is talking about a big decline in spending by these companies. That's something, because they always have to spend to keep up.

We heard yesterday from Burberry and Levi Strauss that people aren't spending for either the high end or the low end, as Burberry's goods cost a ton and Levi Strauss' don't.

We got some data last night on computer sales that show a dramatic slowdown in ultrabooks. Nomura says this will sting Intel (INTC), and we know it has already hurt Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

Infosys (INFY) is talking about a dramatic slowdown in IT spending.

We heard yesterday from H.H. Gregg (HGG) that spending on video -- think televisions -- has taken a big dive.

And finally, we heard from Supervalu (SVU) that the consumer is tight-fisted. That's a supermarket chain, for heaven's sake.

This is all very sudden.

It almost seems as it is from nowhere. But is it, given that Europe is in endless decline, a seeming death spiral?

Is it, given the lack of anything positive coming from Washington, including the Federal Reserve, where the members are split and want more data? Congress is a joke. Neither presidential candidate seems to directly address the notion of growth.

Is it, given that we have no idea what the tax scheme will be next year?

Is it, given the slowdown in China, a slowdown that I think will lower growth to 6%?

Is it, given that Brazil and India are just floundering, although at least Brazil is cutting rates?

Is it, given the sudden spike in crop costs that undoes so much of the deflation positives that we have seen from energy?

Is it, given the currency turmoil that is playing havoc with earnings?

Is it, when outfits like Cummins (CMI) see worldwide softness?

Is it, when Airbus one of the two big aerospace players, is saying that jumbo jet demand, seemingly endless, is now cooling?  

Nah, nothing is really surprising except the fact that the stock market hasn't fallen apart.

The difficult issue we have at this very moment is how much of all of this sudden negative news is in the stock market. Cummins is a spectacular example of what could be the case. We all know that trucks were weak. Even Alcoa (AA) had just told us that.

We all see what happens when Supervalu blows up and suspends the dividend.

We see what happens when an Infosys slashes its outlook.

But what happens to the others that don't issue profit warnings? What happens to the companies that are doing well, particularly the non-cyclical companies?

I think what we are seeing is that the industrial segment of our market is getting trashed, and trashed endlessly because of all of the above concerns.

Now technology has become worrisome, although the negatives seem to be not affecting the stocks of Microsoft (MSFT), Oracle (ORCL), Apple (AAPL) and Intel (INTC).

Financials? Haven't heard from them yet. If spending is slowing, though, it is hard to believe that they can have all that much good to say.

Minerals are awful, but Chevron (CVX) cast a pretty good light on things last night.

It's mixed. And maybe that's the key to what is happening right now in the market. Some pockets of non-cyclical strength offset by cyclical weakness. Maybe that's how the stock market stays up here.

Right now, though, if you had to chart things out -- and the charts are very much in control -- you have to think that things break down, not up.

I reiterate that the industrials, the techs and the financials are not the places to be.

You can trade them but you can't invest them.

But the higher-yielders, the industrials north of 4% yield, and the counter-cyclicals?

They remain the place to be. Maybe even more than ever.

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