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Shrinking dollar could boost the market and make these stocks big winners

  • The U.S. Dollar index is down 8 percent this year, and so far companies have not been discussing the benefit of the weak currency on foreign sales.
  • But analysts are starting to talk about it as its weakness should provide a strong tailwind for second half earnings.
  • The companies that benefit most are commodities companies and those with the most overseas sales.

The weaker dollar could give Wall Street's bull more room to run, and boost the earnings growth of multinationals and commodities companies in the second half of the year.

With the latest drubbing, strategists have been taking a look at the impact of the slumping dollar on corporate profits, and it could provide an unexpected windfall. The U.S. Dollar index is down 8 percent so far this year, and the S&P 500 is already up 10.3 percent.

The dollar soared right after the election in late 2016 on the prospect of President Donald Trump's pro-growth policies boosting the economy and earnings. But since then, there has been no action on tax reform or fiscal stimulus, and Congress continues to struggle with health care. As a result, the Trump factor has been more than reversed.

"The buck should boost, not bite," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA. "In the fourth quarter, we're going to see a reverse image of last year. While the buck took a bite out of earnings last year, it should boost them this year. ... It's also reflective of investors anticipating that the Fed is not going to be raising rates as much as was expected earlier in the year."

Analysts say the companies most likely to feel the impact of a weaker dollar are those with the most exposure overseas, as well as commodities-focused companies since the dollar weakness pushes commodities higher. Foreign sales accounted for 42.3 percent of 2016 revenues of S&P 500 companies, down from 44.3 percent the year earlier and the lowest percentage since 2003, according to Standard & Poor's.

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, S&P Global Market Intelligence

Morgan Stanley analysts say for every 1 percent drop in the dollar, S&P 500 earnings could gain a half percentage point. The analysts said the dollar impacts earnings on a rolling basis and it should show up as a positive in the second half. In an example, they noted that an 8 percent decline in the dollar index by year-end would equate to a 4 percent gain in 2018 earnings per share. The firm said the dollar could fall as much as 5 percent more, and if that happens, the boost to earnings could be 6.5 percent.

Analysts from research firm Strategas also said they see a boost for stocks.

"In the short to intermediate term this could set the stage for powerful earnings leverage for multinationals in the coming quarters. A pickup in international economic activity coupled with a weaker dollar will lead to quite positive foreign earnings and foreign currency translation effects," they noted.

Strategas said FirstCall estimates that the impact of this could be as much as a $2 to $3 lift to [S&P 500] earnings in coming quarters. Strategas forecasts $124 for 2017 for S&P 500 companies and $135 for 2018.

"The market may not be cheap, but given the fact that S&P profits have been flat for three years at roughly $118, a first derivative change this year and a second derivative change in the next is a welcome turn of events," the strategists wrote.

Morgan Stanley strategists said the lift from the dollar could help companies hit lofty targets. Earnings are expected to rise 13 percent year over year in the fourth quarter. "The weaker dollar makes these numbers look more achievable," they wrote.

Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group, said while earnings have been solid this quarter, companies appear more guarded in their comments. But the falling dollar hasn't become a topic of discussion yet, and that could help the outlook for companies with overseas profits.

"The drop in the dollar brings a little inflationary undertone," he said. It should boost the results of commodities companies, industrials, consumer staples and some consumer discretionary.

Earnings are expected Tuesday morning from multinationals like Caterpillar, Eli Lilly, General Motors, United Technologies, McDonald's, and Seagate Technology. Kimberly-Clark, DuPont, PulteGroup, Newmont Mining, AK Steel, JetBlue and TransUnion.

After the bell, AT&T, Juniper Networks, Advanced Micro Devices, U.S. Steel, Akamai, Chipotle, Chubb and Express Scripts report.