One of the big challenges in digesting earnings is trying to parse through what are and what are not material statements made by company executives on earnings calls. Executives at publicly traded companies have become experts at deflecting tough questions and use sophisticated and evasive language to obfuscate the direction of their companies. However, American Century Investments is debuting a new piece of language processing software which can intelligently understand the commentary and identify material versus immaterial statements, or what they call “BS”. The software is highly sophisticated in spotting not just key words, but patterns and relationships between statements. It cites four areas that can help it find BS: omission, “spin”, obfuscation, and blame.
FINSUM: This seems as though it could be a useful tool, especially as it is more sophisticated than just using key words (which people can easily adapt to).
If that headline seems like a head scratcher, it is meant to be. Barron’s ran a curious article today which argues that weak forecasts for earnings might actually be a good catalyst for higher stock prices. That seems to defy logic, but would be a continuation of a trend that has been in place for a few years. When companies broadcast weak earnings to come, it tends to make investors nervous, leading to oversold conditions. As you might expect, oversold markets tend to lead to bull runs.
FINSUM: This is a tenuous relationship, but when that has been apparent for the last few years. Stocks do like to climb a wall of worry, and this would be a good wall.
Amazon has had two rough patches following its last two earnings releases. The stock fell in October after its third quarter earnings release, and again last week after its fourth quarter numbers. December as a whole was a rough patch too. However, all this presents a good buying opportunity, says one equity research analyst. “Amazon typically experiences some downside follow-through over the day and week after a move lower on earnings, but over the next one and three months, these moves lower have presented very good buying opportunities”, says the analyst, from Bespoke Investment Group.
FINSUM: This is not arguing that Amazon is suddenly some kind of value stock, but if you are thinking of going long anyway, the current environment may represent a good buying opportunity.
We ask you, readers, to name the single most important factor that has supported stock prices through all the turmoil over the last year. We bet more than half of you uttered “earnings” to yourself. Earnings have grown strongly in the last year, something that helped keep prices stable despite big geopolitical worries. However, there pillar of the market may now be crumbling as analysts have just turned the earnings outlook negative for the first time in three years. Analysts now expect first quarter earnings to decline by almost 1% from last year. By contrast, at the end of December, expectations were for a 3.3% gain. Most expect the weakness to come from margins, not top line growth.
FINSUM: Continued strong earnings were supposed to be one of the positives this year. If earnings sputter out, what is there to hold up the market in the face of so much uncertainty?
A lot of investors are nervous to put their money back in markets. The big losses of December have given way to a great start to the year, but investors are still shy because of the volatility. Well, JP Morgan says investors need to get back in markets soon as waiting for analysts to turn bullish again has a history of being a poor idea. Generally speaking, analysts can be a year behind actual market moves, so if investors wait until the mood improves, they will have already missed out on a lot of the gains.
FINSUM: Worries about forthcoming earnings aside, the market definitely has a renewed spring in its step and we are generally feeling bullish given the now lower valuations.