Don't expect a lot of positive earnings surprises

Upside earnings announcements over the last several quarters have become commonplace. But the time when earnings are negatively impacted by economic conditions on a global basis appear to be upon us.

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While Alcoa reported positive earnings because of demand for aluminum, a number of companies (including financial-service firms and retailers) have warned that everything is not as rosy as some might hope.

JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Bank of America reported numbers that were negatively impacted by not only litigation expenses but also trading revenue. Capital ratio numbers are also under pressure, which is something regulators are focused in the Dodd-Frank world. Perhaps most importantly, net interest margins continue to be challenging for financial institutions with interest rates plummeting and the 10-year Treasury now below a 1.8 percent yield.

Retailers Tiffany and Best Buy warned that demand was soft. Retail sales as a whole were reported to be disappointing for the all-important holiday-shopping season in the United States, which suggests that consumers are not yet spending the savings from reduced energy costs.

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Intel provided guidance significantly lower than the Street expected as PC sales continued to be negatively impacted by mobile devices and global competition impacted margins. Samsung continues to reel as they are attacked not only by new Apple devices but a low-cost competitor, Xiaomi in China, which is making major inroads in capturing market share.

Supposedly, wireless is supposed to be a safe haven as adoption rates continue to rise with increased standard of living around the world.

Obviously, a company's fortunes can be negatively impacted by global conditions regardless of the tailwind in the sector.

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The euro zone continues to stumble toward deflation and bickering continues surrounding the next steps necessary to spark economic growth.

As a further sign of the growing problems in Europe, Switzerland shocked the markets by removing the cap on its currency relative to the euro.

Even Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, was surprised.

While China's export numbers appeared to be stabilizing based on the last reporting period, the trend is still negative as the economy continues to feel the impact from slower global consumption and the transition of the economy toward more domestic consumption. I was in Beijing last week, and the mood among business leaders is certainly one of concern. The central government continues to mandate reductions in spending. One example of this belt-tightening is that the traditional Chinese New Year's day parade has been canceled by the central government because of concerns about cost.

One might be tempted to become overly enthused about the economic tailwind provided by lower energy prices, but this comes at a cost. Jobs will be lost in the energy sector with oil-exploration companies, services firms, and shale oil producers all negatively affected. The positive impact of lower energy prices will likely not be felt for a significant period of time. In examining energy-related GDP impact, we estimate that for every 40-percent reduction in energy costs (and that¹s where we are now), that may result in a 1-percent potential bump in GDP growth.

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While this may sound promising, remember the U.S. economy is experiencing only a lukewarm recovery after the dramatic recession in 2008.

The impact of lower oil prices will likely be more of reducing the negative rather than providing a positive for the economy.

Reversion to mean is never a popular topic when things are going well. We saw that during the tech bubble and the inflated real estate market. But I do not see a way that earnings can continue to beat expectations when expectations have increased at exactly the same moment the global economy is fighting deflation. With the evidence we¹ve seen thus far from companies, we expect the earnings season to be mixed at best and will break the trend of positive earnings surprises on the upside.

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The bond market is telling us something. Yields suggest that the global economy is weak and not significantly improving.

This appears to be the end of constant positive surprises for earnings on the upside.

Commentary by Michael A. Yoshikami, the CEO and founder of Destination Wealth Management in Walnut Creek, California.

Disclosure: Michael Yoshikami doesn't own any of the stocks mentioned above. But DWM buys Apple and Citigroup for clients.