Monday officially kicked off earnings season and stocks didn’t react particularly well, falling slightly across all indexes to end the day. Analysts expect another disappointing quarter for January – March, which, if it comes true, would mark the third straight quarter of negative growth. It would also be the fourth consecutive year that we’ve seen a first quarter miss.
Current estimates project that profits will contract around 9% this earnings season according to FactSet. Continued volatility in the energy industry, along with stubbornly high U.S. dollar values eroding the profits of large corporations, are expected to play a large role in the loss.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
One industry that’s been a sore spot for investors could actually be a turnaround story for earnings season. Energy could be set to rally considering the market’s expectations that a production freeze would help the industry. Oil prices were up earlier this week and many investors will be paying close attention to the numbers energy providers will be putting up – especially any positive guidance estimates.
For further evidence of oil’s rally, just take a look at how Chevron’s (CVX) stock reacted this week with a jump from just under $95 per share on Thursday to nearly $98 a share as of Wednesday – a gain of more than 3% in less than one week.
While estimates should be low, a future deal to freeze production would make it somewhat irrelevant and help future earnings. Along the same lines, financial companies are expected to put up disappointing numbers due to concern surrounding loans to energy companies. JP Morgan (JPM) could be a good bet for investors looking to capitalize on the trend with the stock up more than 5% since Thursday.
In all, a weaker-than-expected quarter for energy and financial stocks could result in outsized gains later on this year.
Alcoa (AA) didn’t help bullish investors on Monday when it reported weak earnings. The news doesn’t come as a total surprise, though, given the overall weakness we’ve seen in commodity-led companies lately. In fact, the majority of the weakness expected in earnings stems from commodity-based stocks. While energy is once again expected to be the leader in year-over-year earnings declines, the runner up is the material sector with an estimated decline of nearly 22% year over year.
One commodity that seems to be shrugging off the negative sentiment in commodities is copper. The metal has had a volatile year so far but copper producers are red hot. Freeport McMoRan (FCX) has skyrocketed 22% over the past several days, and other similar companies like Southern Copper (SCCO) are following suit.
The Bottom Line
Despite the negative sentiment in the market regarding earnings season, the ultimate barometer of the economy is how the markets will react. So far, stocks haven’t taken a dive off a cliff. Surprisingly, many companies projected to report the worst numbers are actually rising in value. It’s not a disconnect in value, it’s the market telling investors that there’s more to the story.
If an oil freeze does get put into place, that action alone could fuel a major rally. Energy and financial companies are already rallying on the prospect, while copper is signaling a more far-reaching rally across the commodities space as a whole. Investors will want to watch how the market performs as more earnings data comes into play before deciding whether a true rally is taking place or not.