Stocks will likely hit new records in the week ahead if earnings keep topping expectations


Stocks will likely hit new records in the week ahead if earnings keep topping expectations

Stocks will try in the week ahead to break the all-time highs set earlier in the year as a slew of S&P 500 companies get set to report. The S&P 500 is around 1% below its all-time high. The index got a lift this week after a big chunk of this week’s reporters posted better-than-expected results. It was also boosted by improving sentiment around Brexit and U.S.-China trade negotiations. The all-time high could be tested as about 120 S&P 500 companies, or around 24%, are scheduled to release their quarterly results in the week ahead. Some of those companies include Caterpillar and Boeing, both of which are expected to report Wednesday before the bell. Amazon, Intel, McDonald’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill are also on deck for the week.

“You’ve got the potential for a combination of things that drive us to new highs,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities. “At the same time you’re getting better micro data in the earnings, you’re getting better news on the macro hurdles facing us.” 

More than 14% of S&P 500 companies have reported through Friday, FactSet data shows. Of those companies, 81% posted earnings that beat analyst expectations. J.P. Morgan Chase’s report on Tuesday sent the stock to an all-time high while Citigroup and Bank of America also got a boost from their earnings releases. Netflix, meanwhile, briefly rallied around 7% Thursday before ending the session up 2.5%. Morgan Stanley advanced 1.5% on earnings. Coca-Cola climbed more than 1% on Friday after releasing its quarterly numbers. To be sure, the companies are being rated on a very low bar this earnings season. Analysts polled by FactSet expected third-quarter earnings to have fallen by 4.6%.

“Earnings can be a positive catalyst to the extent that expectations are pretty low,” said Dan Russo, chief market strategist at Chaikin Analytics. “The bar has been lowered to the point where companies can jump over it.” But investors might have a harder time digesting the week’s reports. Companies such as Caterpillar are heavily affected by the U.S.-China trade war given their exposure to overseas markets. Boeing and Intel also have overseas exposure. Meanwhile, reports from companies such as Amazon, McDonald’s and Chipotle will be heavily scrutinized as investors look for clues on how the consumer is doing. “Trade frictions and the global economic slowdown have clearly affected 2019 earnings growth thus far,” Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute, said in a note. “The third-quarter earnings reporting season will likely confirm that those negatives continued to pour over into last quarter’s results.”

The good news for investors is recent trade talks appear to have yielded some progress. President Donald Trump announced Oct. 11 the U.S. and China had reached a “very substantial phase one” deal. Multiple reports this week said China wants additional talks before signing off on the first phase, but National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Thursday there is “a lot of momentum” to finalize the deal. John Augustine, chief investment officer at Huntington Private Bank, said the “narrative” around trade had gotten “so one-sided to the negative side, there may be a better chance than not that a phase-one deal is signed.” Meanwhile, preliminary figures on consumer sentiment showed a slight increase in October from September. The final consumer sentiment numbers for the month are scheduled for release on Friday. “If corporate earnings show signs of resilience, especially by the U.S. consumer, then a run to new highs is by no means out of the question,” Tom Essaye, founder of The Sevens Report, said in a note.