What looked like a robust picture for corporate profits got a little less buoyant last week when big banks turned in reports that left the market disappointed. But even as financial stocks took a tip at week’s end, it really didn’t matter: The Dow still gained more than 1 percent for the week as it looks like there’s just nothing out there that can stop this market. Perhaps, then, some caution is in order.
Here are the events in the week ahead that investors will be watching:
What’s happening in Washington
This week was supposed to be all about health care as Republican lawmakers were expected to present yet another legislative package that would repeal and replace Obamacare. However, Republican Senator John McCain had unexpected surgery to remove a blood clot from above his eye on Friday. With the vote already tight, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said a vote would not occur until Sen. McCain returns. At this point, it is unclear how long it will take McCain to recover. Some reports suggest it could be a few weeks.
All about earnings
Earnings season starts to pick up this week so that will give investors something to chew on.
Profit reports from JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo left traders with a bit of a meh feeling Friday, but it’s otherwise been a fast start to earnings season.
With just a fraction of SP 500 companies reporting, 80 percent have beaten analyst estimates on the bottom line and a blistering 83 percent have exceeded projections for sales. If you’re wondering whether there’s hope for this slow-moving economy of ours, that second number should get your attention.
The market sure seems happy so far, with profits overall expected to grow 6.6 percent, according to FactSet.
On tap this week is a whole slew of companies. Some highlights:
- Monday: BlackRock, Netflix.
- Tuesday: Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Johnson Johnson, IBM.
- Wednesday: Morgan Stanley, American Express, Alcoa.
- Thursday: Travelers, Microsoft, Visa.
- Friday: GE, Honeywell.
All around the world
In the U.S. there’s not a lot on tap regarding economic news. Of course we all know what that means: More time to watch the salacious headlines coming out of Washington on the Russia investigation and, well, we can only guess what else.
Across the pond, investors will be watching what the European Central Bank — the continent’s equivalent of the Federal Reserve — will have to say about interest rates Thursday. Japan’s version is the Bank of Japan, and it will release its latest proclamation on Tuesday.
Yes, this stuff is esoteric and not always accessible to the average investor, but what central banks do matters. Whether they decide to keep policy loose or start tightening will be one of the pivotal factors in determining where markets go from here.
The last word
QMA is a business of Prudential Financial and its managing director Ed Keon, a frequent guest on CNBC, has been a long-time optimist about the stock market. Lately, however, the firm has turned cautious.
Strategists there offer some words of wisdom this week on why:
So have equities come too far too fast and are we overdue for a pullback? We think in general the answer is yes. We have not seen a meaningful pullback in stocks in roughly 18 months (during the last China growth scare), when historically the average time between equity pullbacks of 5 percent or more is two to three months. Further, stocks and other risky assets look stretched and somewhat pricey against a very low volatility backdrop. So, we think investors are bordering on complacent and the usual fears of a summer swoon are probably more justified than not this year.
Currently, we are positioned cautiously and not straying too far from our policy benchmarks in our multi-assets portfolios. We are neutral on U.S. stocks and modestly overweight EAFE (developed markets outside the U.S. and Canada), where we believe valuations are better and earnings still cyclically depressed and thus have more room to run. The euro area in particular is several years behind the U.S. in terms of business and monetary policy cycles and its economic prospects are the best they have been in a decade. The promise of structural reform in France, following the election of centrist reformer Emmanuel Macron in June, is also constructive. But the upcoming election in Italy bears watching.
While we are wary near term, we do not believe a recession or bear market is imminent, so we are inclined to view any meaningful pullback as an opportunity to add exposure. The bull market is at a mature stage, but we do not believe it is ready to roll over just yet.
So it’s basically just a word to the wise rather than a note of alarm. But it’s worth noting a cautious tone from a long-term market bull.