Market will be swimming in earnings from FANG and others, and that could be a good thing

24-07-2017

Market will be swimming in earnings from FANG and others, and that could be a good thing

The Federal Reserve's midweek meeting — coupled with a marquee list of corporate earnings reports — could make the week ahead among the most important of the summer. There are also several key economic reports, with the biggest being second-quarter GDP Friday, now expected at 2.5 percent. The Fed is not expected to take any action at its two-day meeting, but it could provide more details Wednesday as to when it might start to scale back its $4.5 trillion balance sheet and what it currently thinks about a now fourth month of weaker inflation data. For the stock market, however, it could be the make-or-break week for earnings season, with more than a third of the S&P 500 companies and 13 Dow stocks reporting. FANG names— Facebook, Amazon and Alphabet — are among about 180 S&P companies reporting, as are Exxon Mobil, Caterpillar, United Technologies, McDonald's, and Boeing. Stocks were mostly higher for the week, but the Dow lagged, with a small decline. The Dow, S&P 500, Nasdaq and Russell 2000 hit new all-time highs in the past week, but finished Friday slightly below those levels. The earnings season is expected to be strong but not as strong as last quarter's 15 percent growth. So far, 74 percent of S&P 500 companies have beaten earnings estimates, and the rate of earnings growth, including those that have reported, is now expected at about 9.6 percent, according to Thomson Reuters. "It plays in with other favorable facts," said Paul Christopher, head global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. "With the Fed being perceived as dovish, and the economy expected to do better in the second half of the year, we're still expecting 6 percent earnings growth. It's going to be good but not spectacular earnings."

As markets await the Fed's announcement, investors will also be watching the dollar, which was down about 1.7 percent against the euro in the past week and now down more than 10 percent for the year. Expectations of a more hawkish European Central Bank contrast with market views that the Fed is more dovish than it had been and is less likely to follow through with another interest-rate hike this year. There are only about 40 percent odds of a December rate hike, according to fed funds futures. Fed Chair Janet Yellen helped shift market expectations with her recent comments on inflation, so that will be the topic the market could react to most in the Fed's 2 p.m. statement Wednesday. "The Fed will basically put more nuance around what they're going to do on the balance-sheet front," said Krishna Memani, CIO at OppenheimerFunds. Memani said the Fed could also address the fact that inflation has come in lower. Yellen and other Fed officials had been saying the drop in inflation was transitory, but in her recent remarks before Congress, she expressed some trepidation, which the market took as dovish. If the Fed formalizes more of that concern in its statement, "the bond market is going to rally and the stock market is going to rally," he said. The Fed could just simply state that inflation has declined further, and that would be the equivalent of it upgrading its concerns, said James Caron, fixed income portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. "The onus right now is on the market data to really show there is a pickup," Caron said. "For the second quarter, we knew mathematically that inflation was going to hit a soft spot from the year-over-year effects, but there was also an expectation that we would pull out of that soft spot in the third quarter and fourth quarter," he said. Caron said the Fed could continue to discuss growth as rising moderately and may change the language on employment to reflect the strong jobs report in June. Caron said the Fed could continue to discuss growth as rising moderately and may change the language on employment to reflect the strong jobs report in June. "If their dual mandate is full employment and price stability, they're getting an 'A' on one and not doing so well on the other," he said. Caron also expects the Fed to comment on its balance sheet. The Fed has long been done with its quantitative easing program, but one vestige of the program has been that it replaces the Treasurys and mortgages on its balance sheet as they roll down. It plans to slowly reduce the amount of replacement securities it is buying, thereby chipping away at the size of the balance sheet. "Do they get a step closer to saying we're on track to reduce the balance sheet? Yes, I think that also gets communicated. That's probably a September event, and they announce it may start in the fourth quarter," he said.

Focus will also be on Washington in the week ahead, where the Senate is expected to continue working to repeal Obamacare. Expectations are high on Wall Street that Congress will eventually turn to tax reform this year and have something to vote into law early next year. Many believe that Congress will be motivated to pass a tax cut bill by early 2018 to help Republicans keep their House majority in the 2018 midterm elections. "I still think they're going to do something, and they have lots of time to do it. The more they fail on other things, the more incentive they have to compromise on this," Christopher said. The investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia will continue to get attention. President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is expected to be interviewed by a congressional committee in a closed-door session on Monday. He will be interviewed by a separate House committee on Tuesday.