The Standard & Poor’s 500 index (closing price) peaked on July 31 at 4588.96. The index is down 5.9% since then (as of the September 22 close.) That’s not correction territory (a drop of 10% ore more) but I’d say stocks can feel the hot breath of a correction on the back of their necks, The small-cap Russell 2000 Index has lost more than 11% from its July 31 closing high, roughly twice the decline in the S&P 500 Index over the same time. There are other signs of trouble in the stock market.
The key sentiment barometer I’m watching is Palo Alto Networks (PANW), down 13% in the last month on fears that Microsoft (MSFT) is going to gobble up the revenue growth in the cybersecurity space. I think that fear is overblown, at least when it comes to Palo Alto Networks. The stock has long been a favorite of growth stock investors and, if sentiment on market direction for the rest of 2023 is positive I’d expect strong buying in the shares ahead of the Friday, August 18, earnings report. The Wall Street consensus calls for the company to report earnings of 54 cents a share against 15 cents a share in the fiscal quarter a year ago.
Tesla (TSLA) delivered a big beat over Wall Street estimates when the company reported second quarter earnings after the close yesterday. The company reported earnings of 91 cents a share, well above the Wall Street projection of 80 cents a share. But in after hours trading, the stock still fell by 4.20%. Today, July 20, the shares are down 7.17% as of 10:45 a.m. New York time. And this comes despite another record quarter of unit sales. The problem?
Right now economists are projecting that the U.S. economy didn’t slip into a recession in the second quarter that ended on June 30. But those same forecasts are looking for a further slowdown in economic growth in the quarter.
On July 3 the GDPNow forecast from the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank put second quarter growth at an adjusted annual rate of 1.9%. That’s down from the model’s 2.2% forecast on Jone 30. And that rate of growth would be a further deceleration from the 2.0% growth rate (that was an upward revision from a first estimate of just a 1.3% growth rate) in the first quarter and the 2.6% growth in the fourth quarter of 2020. The very recent downward revision in the GDPNow forecast is a result of a drop in private domestic investment growth to 8.8% from 10.4%.So now recession–good news–but a further slowdown in the economy–expected with the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. And a continued drop in company profits.
When is a 4.5% year-over-year drop in earnings for the stocks in the Standard & Poor’s 500 good news? When the forecast for first-quarter earnings projected a 6.8% drop. Bloomberg now projects, with 74% of the companies in the S&P 500 reporting first-quarter results, that earnings for the stocks in the index will be down 4.5% year over year this quarter.
Last night after the market close, Netflix (NFLX) reported first-quarter 2023 results that showed new subscribers grew by just 1.75 million in the first quarter against expectations for 2.3 million additions. Earnings and revenue projections disappointed investors: Netflix said it anticipates earning $2.84 per share on $8.24 billion in the second quarter. Wall Street analysts had forecast earnings of $3.05 per share on $8.5 billion in revenue. For the first quarter, revenue and earnings for the first quarter roughly matched Wall Street consensus estimates. Revenue was $8.16 billion versus an expected $8.18 billion. Earnings per share were $2.88 versus $2.86 expected Today, April 19, shares of Netflix were down 3.34% as of noon New York time.
I expect the earnings season story for the coming week to continue to be dominated by banks. But whereas last week, Friday specifically, was all about big banks, this coming week will be dominated by earnings reports from regional and smaller banks. That’s the very kind of banks that are the focus of worry about the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. We will, however, get a sprinkle of earnings reports from non-bank names just to add some spice to the week.
In Step #3 of my Special Report: 5 Moves for the Next 5 Months, on March 24 I added three Big Tech stocks–Microsoft (MSFT), Adobe (ADBE), and Nvidia (NVDA) to my Volatility Portfolio ahead of earnings season. My theory, explained in that post was that we were facing a tough earnings season for most stocks and that reliable earnings growth from Big Tech would make those stocks look like a safe haven in a period when the Standard & Poor’s 500 as a whole was projected to show a drop in earnings. (I also owned up to my mistake in selling Nvidia back on February 16. That was just wrong. More on why I was wrong and why I’ve changed my mind on that in a post tomorrow or so.)
Right now Wall Street analysts project that on Thursday, January 19, Netflix (NFLX) will report earnings of just 44 cents a share for the fourth quarter of 2022. That would be a huge drop from the $1.33 the company reported in the fourth quarter of 2021. If Netflix reports as expected, will the stock market shudder lower? After all, the Netflix results would be very similar to the negative reports from the big banks so far this earnings season. And it might foreshadow disappointing earnings from the technology companies that began reporting on January 24 with Microsoft (MSFT). Probably not. Although I think it should.
Disappointing holiday sales and margin pressures. Not a good combination for any stock. And today shares of Macy’s (M), down 6.39% as of 2 p.m. New York time; Lululemon (LULU, down 9.01%, and Chico’s FAS (CHS) down 9.41% are paying the price for disappointing Wall Street.
Expect a ton of earnings reports as third-quarter earnings season hits its stride. A few could even move a sector or maybe even the market as a whole. The biggie for the week, I’d argue, is Nvidia (NVDA) on Wednesday, November 16, after the market close. But we’ve also got big news in the retail sector with Walmart (WMT) due to report on November 15.
I’m adding Puts on Apple (AAPL) and Alphabet (GOOG) to my Volatility Portfolio today as insurance against a big market dip on a bad (as in high) Consume Price Index inflation number tomorrow, October 13, and against selling in the shares of these two stocks on their earnings reports on October 27 and October 25, respectively.