Wall Street's bull will have to navigate earnings and politics in the week ahead

18-07-2016

Wall Street's bull will have to navigate earnings and politics in the week ahead

Earnings and politics dominate the week ahead. There are dozens of corporate earnings reports, and the U.S. Republican convention, from where market strategists are hoping to hear more about how a Trump presidency could impact corporate America and the economy. Traders will also be watching the aftermath of Friday's failed military coup attempt in Turkey. News of the military action in the NATO country came just around the close of U.S. trading Friday and sent risk assets lower after the bell. U.S. stock futures fell, and the Turkish lira and other emerging market currencies weakened against the U.S. dollar. There was some late flight to safety buying in U.S. Treasurys and gold. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government was in control within hours. "Uncertainty clouds the picture, but Turkey is not so important to the economic channels. It's more important politically," said Marc Chandler, chief currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman. The Republican convention begins Monday evening in Cleveland, and ends Thursday night with a speech by presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump. "I'm interested, like a lot of people, in hearing a lot of the details," said Bill Stone, PNC Wealth Management chief investment strategist. "I think you'll start to see some reaction to the election if we hear more on the platform and on specific areas … I think it could reverberate across some sectors." But the biggest influence on the stock market, which set an impressive series of new highs in the past week, could be the earnings season, and there are about 90 S&P 500 companies reporting. From financials like Goldman Sachs and American Express to tech names Microsoft and IBM to global industrials like GE, there are a strong cross section of industries reporting in the week ahead. The S&P 500 ended the past week at 2,161, up 1.5 percent for the week. The S&P 500 set four new closing highs, starting Monday when it broke out from its previous May 2015 high. The Dow 30 also broke to new highs, and ended the week at a record 18.471, a gain of 2 percent for the week. "Particularly after that run, there does seem to be some anticipation that earnings will improve over the next 12 months already baked into stock prices. At this point, companies themselves will have to justify that view in coming weeks," said Gina Martin Adams of Wells Fargo Securities. The S&P 500 failed to set a new record Friday, losing 2 points to 2,161. Adams sees more gains ahead for U.S. stocks. "I think on a technical basis, there's really no reason to fight against it. The breadth is very strong. The technicals are very supportive, and on a technical basis the market is much better than it's been for a very long time. The problem is fundamentals need to catch up," said Adams. "Fundamentally we do need to see some evidence that the forward forecast is stabilizing, and that's probably enough to justify prices going higher at this stage and then in future quarters." "What matters is completely not what companies do on that quarter anymore. It's what happens to the outlook." -Gina Martin Adams, Wells Fargo Securities. According to Thomson Reuters, earnings growth for the S&P 500 companies is expected to fall by 4.7 percent in the second quarter, based on expectations and actual reports from the several dozen companies that have reported. "It's the first quarter after eight of decelerating earnings growth," Adams said. "It's the first quarter where we don't have worsening earnings growth expectations. …Tech was a big part of the miss in the first quarter. If you get much better tech prints, that could be good for the broader market, especially if you get forward forecasts out of the tech and industrial sector that look better." Analysts are especially watching the multinationals this week to see if there are any comments on how the separation of the U.K. from the European Union could impact their businesses. "What matters is completely not what companies do on that quarter anymore. It's what happens to the outlook. First quarter was a perfect example. Companies beat by a wide margin, but it didn't matter because companies and analysts alike reduced their expectations for forward growth, and that's what I'm worried about happening this time," she said. Stocks will also respond to bonds in the week ahead. Yields came off their post-Brexit, record lows in the past week. The 10-year Treasury Friday was yielding 1.60 percent, its highest level since the day after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union. It later retreated to 1.54 percent on the Turkish news. The move up in yields was a bit of a concern to some stock traders, who were also beginning to chatter about how better U.S. data might bring the Fed back in play sooner than the market expects. Odds for a December rate hike were about 50/50 as implied by Fed funds futures on Friday after much better than expected retail sales were up 0.6 percent in June. "The two things that are most important to me are what happens in earnings season and what's going on in the bond market," said Adams. "Stocks and bonds are highly correlated." Stocks ran to record highs as bond yields traded near record lows. Investors also rushed into the U.S. credit markets, snapping up high-yield and investment grade corporates as alternatives to lower yielding debt in other parts of the world. "There's the risk we've priced out all expectations that the Federal Reserve is going to do anything this year, and the market has gotten very comfortable with this idea that we've gotten back to a Goldilocks scenario," said Adams. That's a scenario where the economy is strong enough, yields are low and the Fed is not going to move anytime soon. But concerns about the Fed can be put aside for another week, and then likely resurface when it meets July 26 and 27. It is not expected to take action at that meeting, but it could send a message that the market would take as hawkish if it says it is sticking to its plan to hike rates this year. "I think they'll acknowledge the economic data improvement and financial conditions improved, but I doubt they'll seem very hawkish until they let a few months go by," she said. Stone said stocks could continue to rise in the coming week, but they would be spooked if rates move back up quickly. "You've had a good start to the earnings seasons. You had China come in and not scare people," he said, noting China reported better than expected second-quarter GDP growth of 6.7 percent Friday. Adams said presidential politics will matter in the week ahead but are not likely have too much influence over the market. The Democratic convention is the following week. "I do think that the conventions are relevant because we will get more information on what the parties'platforms really are. Each candidate has some information out there, but we'll have more solid or detailed information as result of the conventions. They are relevant but the elections will be dismissed for a while longer," said Adams. At this point, Democrat Hillary Clinton appears to be the front runner. Her policies are more well-known than those of Trump, who has challenged trade deals and has articulated a harsh stance on immigration. But there are still many details lacking, and analysts have not yet been able to discern as much of what his policy would be. Both candidates are expected to support fiscal stimulus, which would help stocks in sectors that benefit from infrastructure spending. A Morgan Stanley survey of 650 investors showed that 70 percent of investors expect the election to influence their market outlook over the next two years. Citigroup analysts wrote this past week that investors view Clinton as more status quo while a Trump presidency would be surrounded by more uncertainty. While there is some belief that he could help the economy short term by slashing taxes and boosting fiscal spending, he could also "sow greater uncertainty and thereby an economic stalling out as business leaders hold off making decisions until they get a better feel for the Trump administration's plans," the Citi analysts wrote. The election could also impact Treasury yields. John Briggs, head of strategy at RBS, said bond yields could move higher for now but may move back to test low yields again in the fall if investors are concerned around the election. "I'm worried about the level of uncertainty we're going to face," he said. "I think we'll back up a little bit here, be lower by the fall, but higher by the end of the year."