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Wall Street bulls see hope for reprise of earnings-season bounce

Bloomberg10/18/2022 03:40 PM GMT+08  • 4 min read
Wall Street bulls see hope for reprise of earnings-season bounce
The stock market is rebounding Monday after a dismal end to last week. Photo: Bloomberg
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The stock market is rebounding Monday after a dismal end to last week and some Wall Street strategists see the potential for a short-term rally due to an old friend: corporate earnings.

The arrival of earnings season has historically served as a remedy for ailing equities, lifting the S&P 500 76% of the time since 2013. In the current cycle, cut-to-bone profit estimates -- which have been slashed down by more than two-thirds in four months, the most since the first quarter of 2020 -- are making the hurdles easy to clear, at least based on how the early reports have gone.

Better-than-expected results from Bank of America Corp. are helping to give the market a lift on Monday after JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. also beat on Friday. The S&P 500 Index is up more than 2.5% and the Nasdaq 100 Index is soaring over 3% in midday trading.

“Earnings could calm stocks in the coming weeks, given that expectations are low and may be easy to beat,” Gina Martin Adams, chief equity strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence, wrote in a note. The announcement cycle “could offer some relief for markets captivated by macroeconomic data.”

That’s exactly what happened last quarter, when the equity rout heading into mid-June led to a 13% gain during earnings season, which is loosely bound by JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s and Walmart Inc.’s results, in the best showing ever. That could be happening again.

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“If investors’ focus shifts away from the expected Fed funds rate moving higher, the case for a short-term equity bounce on less bad earnings and a stable USD is interesting,” 22V Research’s Dennis Debusschere wrote in a note to clients. In his data, the number of companies issuing sour sales and earnings outlooks has spiked to 90% of historical observations going into this earnings cycle.

To Morgan Stanley’s Michael Wilson, a well-known stock market bear, the absence of an earnings capitulation or an official recession could lead to the S&P 500’s bounce to 4,150, suggesting a 16% upside from Friday’s close. The S&P 500’s 23% slump in the S&P 500 this year has pushed the broad equities benchmark to test a “serious floor of support” that could trigger a technical recovery, Wilson’s team wrote in a note to clients.

Corporate profits in the S&P 500 are expected to show growth of 2.2% in the third quarter. In mid-June, that figure was 10%, data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence show. The reduced assumption seem like an easy target to beat, according to Jay Pelosky, founder and principal at TPW Advisory.

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“The bar is low -- 2% consensus earnings growth and we think it’s going to be met and cleared easily,” Pelofsky said Monday on Bloomberg Television. “The Fed is pretty much fully priced in. Earnings will be OK. The economy is growing.”

That said, conditions don’t look so sanguine to Bank of America’s Savita Subramanian. The firm’s head of US equity and quant strategy points to a spike of mentions of “weak demand” during the season’s earnings announcements. There’s a long-term correlation between mentions of “weak demand” and ISM manufacturing readings, and the current number of mentions points to ISM at 49, below the 50 level that separates contraction from expansion.

While uncertainty about the economy’s momentum still weighs on the longer-term outlook, some technical factors also point to a short-term improvement in sentiment. In particular, breadth is looking healthier, with the number of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange making new lows relative to new highs declining for three weeks in a row.

Monday’s rally comes after the S&P 500 closed a touch below its 200-week moving average, a long-term technical support line that has stopped routs in the past -- with the exception of the dot-com bust in the early 2000s, the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, and the 2020 pandemic.

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