International Trade Currency Impact Eases in 2017
A recent report from FiREapps, measuring the impact of currency fluctuations on first quarter 2017 corporate earnings shows the total negative impact as 67 percent smaller than the first quarter of last year.
Of the total impact of $6.70 billion, $6.47 billion came from North American corporations while their European corporations reported only $227.77 million in negative impacts. That figure was 18.5 percent lower than in the fourth quarter of 2016. Ninety-three percent of the 228 companies globally reporting a negative impact to earnings came from North America.
Two-hundred thirteen companies reported negative currency impacts—13.1 percent less than the number of companies in the fourth quarter of 2016, and 16 fewer than the average of the prior three quarters.
The Euro took first place as the top currency mentioned as impactful by North American corporations for the first time since Brexit and the British pound remained tops for the fourth quarter in a row for European companies.
This is the third quarter in a row where less than 30 percent of the North American corporates surveyed reported a currency headwind (negative impact to earnings); this quarter only 25.1 percent of North American corporates reported a headwind.
The report characterized the currency environment as “low volatility” but companies shouldn’t necessary find comfort in that fact. The last five quarters all had higher volatility than in 2013 and 2014. That was a period of low volatility that was followed by a $14.66 billion increase in negative currency impacts between the third and fourth quarters of 2014.
“Looking to previous quarters,” the report noted, “there is a pattern of low volatility followed by a steep increase in volatility and negative currency impact.”
Another red flag comes in the form of a decrease in the number of companies reporting currency impacts. That, according to the report, “shows that many multinationals are still not aware of what their risks are and have been lucky to sustain only minor impacts during the last few low volatility quarters. However, those who are not managing their foreign exchange risk and hedge ratios will likely be caught off guard by a spike in volatility that is sure to come.”