Europe’s economic crisis and the ripple effect on the companies we cover has been on my mind for weeks, but I didn’t get around to writing about it.
Fortunately for all of us, the New York Times’ Nathaniel Popper just did, and their story, “Europe’s fade becomes a drag on sales for U.S. companies,” is both an informative synopsis of the overseas fiscal woes and a resource for reporters wishing to tackle a local version.
If you haven’t already, you might want to be in touch with companies on your beat about what they’re seeing from the European market from their goods and services. In fact, a round-up on the ripple effects of Europe on your area’s major sectors would be an even more interesting package. The graphic accompanying the NYT article, “Industries that rely on foreign sales,” will point you in the right direction — though as the article notes, it’s a mushy topic because many companies don’t report European sales separately.
Even if they don’t sell abroad directly, I imagine surplus capacity in their respective industries — caused by dwindling sales by other firms — makes for a more competitive climate domestically.
The U.S. Department of Commerce offers a wealth of export statistics at its International Trade Administration site; the individual state reports and exports from major metropolitan area reports can help you identify industries that rely on overseas markets.
The Census Bureau also offers a good deal of trade information; I like the reports that show exports by state, ranking both the top commodities exported and the top countries each state exports to. That will help you narrow down the key areas of trade with European nations by companies in your area.
Financial services is another area of fertile ground; this Reuters piece explains how European cash seeking safe haven is putting even more downward pressure on what’s left of U.S. interest rates; that’s going to prolong the agony for savers but how will a continued low-interest-rate climate affect borrowing and investing strategies at the companies you cover — or what they expect from their customers?
The flip side of this question, of course, is businesses that rely on European consumers visiting American soil. In addition to the wealth-eroding effects of down markets and economic insecurity, the stronger dollar makes it more expensive for European tourists and business travelers to visit the U.S. If your market includes a big city, resort area or tourist attraction, check in with the hospitality industry, airlines and related businesses about changes they’re seeing, if any.