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It’s earnings versus Europe for global markets

REUTERS

NEW YORK STOCK investors will return to a tug of war between signs of domestic strength and overseas concerns next week as a batch of critical earnings reports look to add credence to the idea the economy is improving, while credit rating downgrades in Europe will keep that region’s difficulties in view.

Bank stocks will probably once again be a primary focus, as not only will European issues call the group’s profit outlook into question, but many key names report results. Equities have recently undergone a decoupling with respect to Europe’s sovereign debt crisis as signs of progress in the eurozone, along with improving US data, have pushed Wall Street higher on improved growth prospects.

Financials have been a beneficiary of that rising tide, with Bank of America up 22 percent since the start of the year.

So far this month, the S&P 500 is up 2.5 percent, while the Dow is up 1.7 percent and the Nasdaq is up 4.1 percent.

“We’re going to see more volatility in the weeks ahead with tension between earnings and Europe,” said Christopher Sheldon, the Boston-based director of investment strategy at BNY Mellon Wealth Management, which oversees $171 billion globally.

“We want to see Europe resolved, but there will continue to be ups and downs, and while earnings will continue to be relatively good, we do expect slowing compared with 2011.” However, the uncertainty about Europe returned in a big way on Friday after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the ratings of several eurozone countries, including Italy, after the market closed. Talk of the downgrades spurred a selloff that erased most of the gains for the week, when the S&P rose for four straight sessions.

A downgrade could exacerbate the area’s difficulties and bring concerns about how they might affect US banks profits back to the forefront.

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