Maybe the fifth-largest economy on the planet is in the midst of telling the largest trading bloc in the world to take a hike. Maybe the first and second-largest economies are locked in a trade war. Maybe both sides are claiming progress that no one else can see, and tariffs are racking up like credit card charges at Christmas.
And the elected leader of the free world is operating under a cloud of suspicion that he held up financial aid to another country as he politely asked it to help him score political points.
It’s the middle of October. Unless we get major new developments on one of these fronts, none of it will matter because it’s the gut of earnings season.
Over the next five days, more than 700 companies will announce earnings. Among them are 25% of the S&P 500. Everyone from Dow Chemical to Intel will report to the world what happened in the third quarter. Hopefully, they will provide a glimpse of what’s expected over the next several months as well as 2020.
It’s no secret that one of the most closely watched companies will be Boeing, (NYSE: BA). Aviation agencies around the world grounded the company’s newest and most popular jet, the 737 Max. As a result, investors and analysts started estimating how long it would take to get them back in the air. As the days and weeks dragged on, the timeline extended. Now FAA investigators have received internal messages that show the company was aware of software issues as early as 2016.
The planes could be on the ground a long time.
Every day that the Max planes sit idle, Boeing loses money on new orders. It’s causing pain in the major stock averages.
So far, 73 of the S&P 500 companies have reported earnings, with 84% of them coming in higher than expected. That’s well above the long-run average of 65% of companies beating estimates. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.
While companies are reporting better numbers than people thought, they’re still showing a 3.1% earnings decline over this time last year. That could lead to a full year of flat earnings.
Even when we strip out the awful energy sector, earnings are still down 0.6% over last year.
With many companies on the bubble between growth and decline, investors will be giving every earnings announcement a hard look, hoping for signals of what lies ahead.
Among the notables this week are McDonald’s, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and Tesla.
Amazon and Tesla could really light things up. Bezos and Company are famous for ignoring profits while pursuing growth strategies, so you never know what earnings will look like. Of course, Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk is famous for hypnotizing investors and analysts into seeing awful earnings and production numbers as stepping stones to greatness.
With unpredictable elements filling the calendar, it should be an interesting week in the markets! It should give us a nice break from the political news and international economic intrigue.