US stocks to track earnings with an eye on Europe
NEW YORK AFTER suffering their worst two weeks of the year, stocks will look to quarterly earnings to determine whether the recent pullback has been exhausted or more losses are justified.
Alcoa opened the earnings season with a bang, reporting a first-quarter profit on Tuesday instead of the expected loss. That positive surprise foretold a trend. Of the 32 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far, Thomson Reuters data showed that 75 percent - or two dozen - have beaten Wall Street’s expectations.
Next week will start one of the two busiest weeks of the quarterly earnings reporting period. About 86 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 are expected to post results, according to Thomson Reuters Director’s Report.
At Friday’s close, both the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 wrapped up their worst two-week percentage drops since late November. The Dow and the S&P each fell 2.7 percent for the two weeks from the close on March 30.
“It seems like everybody’s been waiting for this socalled correction to potentially get back into the stock market,” said Kei Sasaki, managing director of listed equities at PineBridge Investments in New York, which has $67 billion in assets under management.
“But I’d point to the extremely high levels of correlation within equity markets that we saw in 2011.
That was coupled with heightened volatility in 2011,” Sasaki added. “Even with the down moves in the market over the past several days, the volatility has stayed relatively subdued.” “The correlations on a moving average have also stayed relatively subdued, which tells us that investors are still looking at the market in a fundamental way that they haven’t for the past year.
So if earnings come in positive for the first quarter, we think they will get rewarded for it,” he said.
Among the marquee names on next week’s earnings calendar are 10 Dow components: Intel Corp, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, DuPont, Microsoft, The Travelers Companies, Verizon Communications, American Express, General Electric, and McDonald’s Corp.
Financials will be eyed next week on the heels of Friday’s results from JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo with both big banks’ earnings exceeding forecasts.
In the coming week, earnings are expected from the likes of Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
But even with earnings attracting investors’ attention, equities remain vulnerable to flare-ups in the eurozone as the bloc continues to grapple with its debt crisis.
“Earnings are beating expectations. Outlooks still look pretty optimistic,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Harris Private Bank in Chicago.
“Overall pretty good news, but it takes one lousy headline out of Europe to trump the whole thing.” Equities snapped a two-day advance on Friday, pulled lower as the rising cost of insuring Spanish debt against default increased concerns about Europe’s financial health.
The benchmark S&P 500 rose for two consecutive days this week after a drop of more than 4 percent in the previous five sessions - opening the possibility that equities had seen the pullback many analysts were expecting after the S&P 500 climbed 12 percent in the first quarter.
The S&P 500 remained near its 50-day moving average, a key technical level that could help indicate the next direction for stocks.