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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Tech Earnings Power Market Gains

Charles Schwab: On the Market
Posted: 10/27/2017 4:15 PM EDT

Tech Earnings Power Market Gains
U.S. equities finished out the week higher, as technology issues jumped on a number of favorable earnings reports, including Google's parent Alphabet and Dow members Microsoft and Intel. Meanwhile, the consumer discretionary sector got a boost from Amazon's strong report. Treasury yields were lower, with Fed leadership uncertainty overshadowing favorable reads on Q3 GDP and consumer sentiment. Crude oil and gold prices were higher, and the U.S. dollar added to its recent run. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) rose 33 points (0.1%) to 23,434, the S&P 500 Index increased 21 points (0.8%) to 2,581, while the Nasdaq Composite soared 145 points (2.2%) to 6,701. In moderate-to-heavy volume, 892 million shares were traded on the NYSE and 2.4 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq. WTI crude oil jumped $1.26 to $53.90 per barrel and wholesale gasoline gained $0.02 to $1.72 per gallon. Elsewhere, the Bloomberg gold spot price rose $5.98 to $1,272.97 per ounce, and the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—was 0.3% higher at 94.87. Markets were nicely higher for the week, as the DJIA increased 0.5%, the S&P 500 Index gained 0.2% and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 1.1%. Inc. (AMZN $1,101) reported Q3 earnings-per-share (EPS) of $0.52, well above the $0.07 FactSet estimate, as revenues rose 34.0% year-over-year (y/y) to $43.7 billion, topping the expected $41.6 billion. The results included the contribution from its recent acquisition of Whole Foods. AMZN issued Q4 revenue guidance with a midpoint below expectations. Shares rallied.

Google parent Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL $1,034) posted Q3 EPS of $9.57, exceeding the projected $8.35, with revenues excluding traffic acquisition costs (TAC) growing 21.9% y/y to $22.3 billion, north of the forecasted $21.9 billion. Shares were decisively higher.

Dow member Microsoft Corp. (MSFT $84) announced fiscal Q1 earnings of $0.84 per share, versus the expected $0.71, as revenues rose 12.0% y/y to $24.5 billion, above the projected $23.5 billion. Shares were solidly higher.

Dow component Intel Corp. (INTC $44) reported Q3 EPS of $0.94, or $1.01 ex-items, compared to the forecasted $0.80, with revenues rising 2.0% y/y to $16.1 billion, topping the expected $15.7 billion. INTC issued Q4 guidance that bested estimates, while it raised its full-year outlook. INTC moved solidly higher.

With the flurry of key earnings reports from the tech sector, Schwab's Director of Market and Sector Analysis, Brad Sorensen, CFA, offers timely analysis of our outperform rating we have held for some time on the group in his latest, Schwab Sector Views: Technology Trick or Treat?. Brad notes that the technology sector’s strong run could continue, with improving global growth prospects and continued high consumer confidence providing support. But risks for the sector have risen and investors should be careful not to get overly concentrated in the tech sector.

Dow member Merck & Co. Inc. (MRK $58) posted a Q3 loss of $0.02 per share, or a profit of $1.11 per share ex-items, compared to the estimated $1.03, as revenues declined 2.0% y/y to $10.3 billion, below the forecasted $10.5 billion. MRK increased its full-year guidance. Shares of MRK came under heavy pressure.

Dow component Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM $84) announced Q3 EPS of $0.93, north of the expected $0.86, on revenues of $66.2 billion, versus the projected $62.8 billion. Shares are ticked higher.

Dow member Chevron Corp. (CVX $114) achieved Q3 earnings of $1.03 per share, while excluding one-time items reflecting asset sales and write offs, EPS was $0.85, but it is unclear if it is comparable to the anticipated $0.98. Revenues were $36.2 billion, versus the forecasted $34.5 billion. Shares were lower.

First read on Q3 GDP tops forecasts, consumer sentiment remains at 13-year high

The first look (of three) at Q3 Gross Domestic Product (chart), the broadest measure of economic output, showed a quarter-over-quarter (q/q) annualized rate of expansion of 3.0%, after the unrevised 3.1% expansion in Q2, and above the 2.6% growth forecasted by Bloomberg. Personal consumption gained 2.4%, topping forecasts of a 2.1% rise and following the unadjusted 3.3% increase recorded in Q2.

Private inventory investment, nonresidential fixed investment, exports and federal government spending joined personal consumption to contribute to the stronger-than-expected growth, and more than offset negative contributions from residential fixed investment, as well as state and local government spending.

On inflation, the GDP Price Index came in at a 2.2% rise, well above expectations of a 1.7% gain and the unrevised 1.0% increase seen in Q2, while the core PCE Index, which excludes food and energy, moved 1.3% higher, matching expectations, and following the unadjusted 0.9% advance in Q2.

The GDP report suggests that business capital spending (capex) continues to gain steam and Schwab's Chief Investment Strategist Liz Ann Sonders notes in her latest article, Takin Care of Business: Several Important Kickers for a Strong Capex Cycle, that an even sharper recovery could be in the cards for 2018, while tax reform—if we get it—would be an additional kicker. She adds that the pick-up in capex is a relatively new bright spot for the U.S. economy; and in 2018 it will likely be a shining characteristic of the latter innings of an economic expansion.

The final October University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index (chart) was revised lower to 100.7, matching forecasts, from the preliminary level of 101.1. The index was up solidly versus September's level of 95.1 and sits at a level not seen since January 2004. Compared to last month, the expectations and current conditions components of the survey both improved decisively. The 1-year inflation outlook fell to 2.4% from September's 2.7% rate, and the 5-10 year forecast remained at 2.5%.

Treasuries were higher as the data was met with Fed leadership speculation, as the yield on the 2-year note dropped 3 basis points (bps) to 1.60%, while the yields on the 10-year note and the 30-year bond fell 4 bps to 2.42% and 2.93%, respectively.

The U.S dollar continues to climb, bolstered by global economic and earnings optimism, along with the euro's extended drop following yesterday monetary policy decision by the European Central Bank and relative optimism of U.S. tax reform as it appears to be nudging down the long road to fruition.
Schwab's Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Michael T. Townsend and Vice President of Trading and Derivatives, Randy Frederick, discuss tax reform in the video, Where Does Tax Reform Stand?, while Chief Fixed Income Strategist, Kathy Jones delivers the video with Randy about Should a Change in Fed Leadership Matter to Investors?.

Europe mixed on data and Spanish political turmoil, Asia higher

European equity markets finished mixed, with global earnings optimism rising in the wake of the host of upbeat results from U.S. tech sector heavyweights. Also, a positive global economic backdrop was bolstered by the stronger-than-expected U.S. Q3 GDP growth. The euro added to yesterday's drop that came courtesy of the European Central Bank's monetary policy decision to cut and extend its stimulus measures, which appeared to foster a dovish takeaway. Schwab's Chief Global Investment Strategist Jeffrey Kleintop, CFA, offers analysis of the global monetary policy front in his article, How the Shift by Central Banks May Affect the Stock Market, and talks with Randy Frederick in the video about Is An Optimistic Outlook for Global Equities Warranted?. The British pound also saw some pressure as Brexit uncertainty lingered, while bond yields in the region traded mixed. Spanish stocks fell amid ramped up political uncertainty as tensions with Catalonia remain elevated, with the Catalan parliament declaring independence from Spain.

Stocks in Asia finished mostly higher following the flood of upbeat earnings reports out of the U.S. tech sector after yesterday's close, while the markets continued to digest the dovish takeaway from the European Central Bank's monetary policy decision to trim and extend its stimulus measures. Japanese equities rallied to extend their recent run to highs not seen since 1996, with the yen losing ground and a report showing the nation's consumer price inflation rose in September. Improved global earnings sentiment helped lift mainland stocks in China and Hong Kong, while those traded in South Korea also gained solid ground. However, markets in Australia declined amid flared-up political uncertainty after Prime Minister Turnbull lost his parliamentary majority, and securities in India finished flat. Schwab's Liz Ann Sonders discusses with Randy Frederick in the video, Tracking Sentiment: Are Investors Too Optimistic About Stocks?.

Stocks grind out another positive week

Stocks managed to squeak out a seventh-straight weekly gain, with upbeat Q3 GDP, durable goods, new home sales, and business activity reports preserving global economic optimism, though action was choppy as a ramped-up earnings season fostered mixed responses. The technology sector was a standout winner, buoying the markets amid a glut of positive earnings reports from heavyweights in the group, while telecommunications and healthcare issues fell solidly, bogged down by AT&T Inc's (T $34) results and guidance from Celgene Corp. (CELG $97). Energy stocks dipped as Dow member Chevron's results appeared to fail to live up to lofty expectations for the sector and offset the continued climb in crude oil prices. With earnings season more than half way done, of the 273 S&P 500 companies that have reported, 68% have topped revenue forecasts and 79% have bested profit projections, per data compiled by Bloomberg. Treasury yields climbed to support financials amid the improved economic sentiment, which also helped the U.S. dollar extend a rally, along with the euro tumbling in the wake of a seemingly dovish takeaway from the European Central Bank's monetary policy decision.

Next week, earnings season will remain robust, but a fully-loaded economic calendar will likely go a long way in shaping market direction, headlined by the midweek Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) monetary policy decision, the ISM Manufacturing and non-Manufacturing Indexes, monthly auto sales, and the nonfarm payroll report. Other releases that deserve a mention include: personal income and spending, Consumer Confidence, Q3 nonfarm productivity and labor costs, the trade balance, and factory orders.

As noted in the latest Schwab Market Perspective: Stocks Aren't so Spooky, along with new records being set by stocks, investor sentiment measures are showing widespread optimism; yet households’ exposure to equities is not at an extreme. We believe the bull market will continue, and suggest investors remain at their target allocations, but worry a bit about complacency. Third quarter earnings season has been solid so far and economic growth has picked up. But the pick of the next Fed chair could cause an uptick in volatility. Globally earnings have been strong as well and are helping to support stocks, but geopolitical and trade issues could cause some consternation.

International reports due out next week to keep an eye on include: Australia—trade balance, building approvals and retail sales. China—Manufacturing and non-Manufacturing PMIs. India—Manufacturing and Services PMIs. Japan—retail sales, household spending, industrial production, and the Bank of Japan monetary policy decision. Eurozone—Q3 GDP and consumer price inflation, along with German unemployment change. U.K.—Bank of England monetary policy decision.

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