Right now, central banks trump fundamentals. They are like the wizard in The Wizard of Oz pulling levers and pushing buttons in an attempt to get their economies back on track. China, the European Union and Japan are each putting their foot on the gas in attempts to stimulate their economies. Here in the U.S. the Fed would like to take its foot off the gas but as they stated in their last meeting they are "concerned" about a global slowdown. Markets like liquidity and as long as the Fed has its hand on the scale it is hard to look at fundamentals because they just don't matter as much. So, we follow our process. A process, which incidentally, is designed to keep a correction from turning into a crash. Fortunately or unfortunately, all crashes begin with a correction but not all corrections become crashes. Since we don't have the luxury of seeing what happens tomorrow we have to deal with the data as it comes and unemotionally follow a process. Its not always easy and its not always right but it will keep those corrections from becoming crashes, which, at the end of the day, is what most of our clients want.
Every quarter, financial pages everywhere become focused on earnings reports as companies begin to dole out information on how they performed in the last quarter. So far, we've heard from 172 S&P 500 companies who have reported 2.0% higher profits on 2.1% lower revenues as compared to the same period last year. Now, higher earnings can be counted as good news, but S&P companies have gotten a boost from the Tech sector and some individual success stories. Once all reports have come in, analysts are projecting earnings to be 3.4% lower (than Q3 2014) on 5.1% lower revenues. Overall, it's clear that the same headwinds that challenged firms in the second quarter stayed with us.
Why do earnings matter? For stock investors, earnings season matters because underlying earnings influence price movements. Since stocks are just ownership shares of a company, (all things being equal) good news for the underlying firm will generally result in upward movement of the stock. Bad news is usually greeted with a drop. Now, these relationships get tricky when investors anticipate good or bad news and buy or sell a stock to speculate before earnings reports come out. That's one reason markets are often more volatile during earnings season.
For everyone else, earnings reports are a good way to get a look at the business climate for U.S. firms. Earnings reports contain a lot of information: revenues, profits, challenges, expectations about the future, and often special notes by company managers. This data is a goldmine for analysts as they create forecasts about the future.
As financial professionals, it's our job to search for the individual success stories for our clients. We are always on the lookout for opportunities and strategies to help our clients pursue success in challenging markets. If you have any questions about earnings or strategies for volatile markets, please let us know.
The week ahead is brimming with more earnings reports that should further clarify the business picture for U.S. companies. The Federal Reserve is also hosting its October Open Market Committee meeting and will announce any rate changes or other moves on Wednesday. Very few (if any) analysts expect the Fed to change interest rates at this meeting; however, investors will be interested to see if the Fed issues any guidance about whether to expect a hike in December or early next year. Has "Fed fatigue" set in? Maybe, but markets could still react to unexpected news from central bankers. The other big data release is our first look at third-quarter economic growth. We'll keep you updated.
Monday: New Home Sales, Dallas Fed Mfg. Survey
Tuesday: Durable Goods Orders, S&P Case-Shiller HPI, Consumer Confidence
Wednesday: International Trade, EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Meeting Announcement
Thursday: GDP, Jobless Claims, Pending Home Sales Index
Friday: Personal Income and Outlays, Employment Cost Index, Chicago PMI, Consumer Sentiment