The market just hit fresh highs and we are making progress on the trade war; everything is good right? Wrong, says UBS. The bank has just put out an unusually bold warning, saying markets are likely headed for a big decline. Why? Earnings. Earnings growth forecasts for 2020 have tumbled from a peak of 23% to the just 1% now, a huge fall in expectations. That all comes as the growth backdrop for the economy is weakening, and signals that valuation multiples are likely to contract. “Every bear market of the past 50 years has witnessed an actual decline in S&P 500 forward earnings … Ultimately, the most vulnerable macro backdrop for equities occurs when forward earnings growth turns negative as LEIs are trending downward (pushing [price-to-earnings] lower)” says UBS.
FINSUM: An earnings bear market can easily turn into a real bear market, though it doesn’t always happen.
There are a lot of worries in the market that a recession may be headed the way of both the world generally, and the US more specifically. However, two analysts from well-respected Ned Davis Research have a different opinion. Of their 10 recession indicators which they watch, only one is signaling a recession. In particular, they dismiss five of the market’s biggest worries: the inversion, market breadth, deteriorating economic signals, earnings deceleration, and the trade war.
FINSUM: These guys seem overly optimistic. One of our big questions is whether some weakening signs in the economic actually point to a recession, or are they just part of a temporary ebb.
What is the biggest risk to the equity market right now. Is it a recession? Is it a trade war? Neither, it is something much more mundane—earnings, at least according to John Hancock Investment Management. Analysts, and the market by extension, are expecting big earnings growth in 2020. And we mean big—the average analyst estimate for S&P 500 earnings growth is 10.5%. That seems like a huge number given that earnings growth in 2019 is set to be only 1%, and has been flat for a couple of quarters. It is made even more unrealistic by the direction of the economy. John Hancock says that defensive sectors like utilities, pipelines, and electricity grids should hold up best in the possibly forthcoming recession.
FINSUM: 10.5% earnings growth in 2020 sounds frankly laughable right now. That said, the market can adjust to these kind of expectations fairly fluidly, so a downturn in expectations may not wound equities all that much.
Not a day after warning about the unstable financial practices of S&P 500 companies, Goldman Sachs has just gone on the record saying that the S&P 500 is set for another round of big gains. The bank raised its year-end forecast for the index to 3,100. Goldman thinks that stocks are currently trading at fair valuations, and that “The dovish Fed pivot has driven the equity market rally in 2019, and we expect low interest rates will continue to support above-average valuations going forward”. The bank contends stocks will rise a further 10% in 2020.
FINSUM: We think stocks are going to move in line with the economy. If growth stays okay, and the Fed stays dovish, we are in for a move higher. We think the best odds are for a bull case.
Second quarter earnings season is about to begin, and nobody has much expectation for good news. Analysts across the board expect earnings to shrink, brining back the first profit recession since 2016. Materials, technology, and consumer discretionary are set to get hit the hardest, but the majority of sectors are likely to see losses. Analysts estimate the average earnings decline for the S&P 500 will be 2.8%.
FINSUM: It will be interesting to se if this has any effect on stocks. Given it is so telegraphed, we don’t think there will be a big impact unless the losses are much steeper than expected.