US: Corporate Profits

August 26, 2016 07:30 CDT

Corporate profits, as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), are summarized briefly as the income of organizations treated as corporations in the national income and product accounts. The BEA reports several measures of profits. Profits from current production (corporate profits with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustment), are also known as operating or "economic" profits. Capital consumption adjustment deals with the differences in depreciation allowances used for accounting and income tax purposes. Inventory valuation adjustment (IVA) deals with the difference in measuring the cost of inventory replacement. Book profits amount to operating profits subtracting out inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments. After tax profits are book profits after taxes are subtracted. The Econoday reports focus on after tax profits reported by the BEA, since these are the most relevant.

The corporate profit figures that are derived from the national income and product accounts (NIPA) depend on GDP growth. They don't always move in the same direction or the same magnitude as the profit data reported directly by individual companies or even the S&P 500.

Corporate profits are the lifeblood of investment spending. Profits are the income of a corporation. When profits are strong, then companies will be able to increase their capital spending. This could allow better growth prospects for a company and is likely to increase its underlying value. When corporate profits decline, then capital spending tends to decline. Without the potential for growth, a company could be at a disadvantage, particularly in our global economic environment.

Corporate profits also reveal the health of an organization. When a company's profits are anemic during economic expansion, it suggests that the company is not performing efficiently. The value of an inefficient company is determined by its stock price. Thus weak profits signal lower stock prices. When a company's profits are relatively strong, even during an economic downturn, it usually means that the organization is well-managed. The higher value for this type of company is reflected in a higher stock price.