Currency Moves Take a Smaller Bite Out of Earnings

Fewer North American companies reported negative foreign exchange impacts for the fourth quarter of 2016.
Vincent RyanApril 26, 2017

Multinationals in Europe and North America lost $10.47 billion due to currency volatility in the closing quarter of 2016. That sounds like a lot, but on a relative basis it was a tame quarter for currency volatility. A year earlier,  multinationals lost $36.85 million due to changes in currency values.

Data from FiREapps also shows that 296 North American and European companies reported that moves in foreign exchange rates dented their earnings in 2016’s closing quarter, compared with 409 that did so in the fourth quarter of 2015.

“This is the third quarter in a row where less than 30% or more of the North American corporates surveyed reported a currency headwind (negative impact to earnings),” FiREapps stated in its quarterly report on the effect of currency movements on company earnings. The report stated that while lower currency volatility had some effect, the dollar amount could also be lower because many companies did not report material impacts in the quarter.

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For North American corporates that quantified the negative effects of currency movements, the average per-company headwind was $56.7 million and, for European corporates, it was $101.2 million. Among the 33 companies that quantified negative currency impact in terms of earnings per share (EPS), the average EPS effect was $0.04 per share.

The five currencies mentioned most often on earnings calls, among the 850 North American corporates that FiREapps tracks, were the British pound, the euro, the Japanese yen, the Chinese renminbi, and an equal number of mentions between the Brazilian real and the Canadian dollar.

For European firms, the British pound topped the list of most-mentioned currencies by more than four-fold. In the three-month period, the value of the euro fell about 4% and then reversed course, closing the quarter at a level higher than where it stood at the quarter’s opening.

Securities analysts had fewer inquiries about currency impacts related to the fourth quarter of 2016. The percentage of corporates reporting a currency impact that received questions about it from analysts on earnings calls was exceedingly low in both Europe (18%) and North America (23%), FiREapps stated.

FiREapps analyzes the earnings calls of 1,200 publicly traded North American and European companies (dubbed the “FiREapps 1200”). The companies included in this data set are large multinational firms with at least 15% international revenues in at least two currencies.

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