As dramatic as yesterday’s market decline was, there are several reasons to conclude that a market that was clearly fully valued (see last week’s postings) was one that was susceptible to any signs of economic and/or political areas of concern.
On the economic side of the equation was last week’s negative reading in my Macro Economic Consensus Trend indicator (see accompanying table and description below). After many weeks of net positive readings, last week’s negative -3 net contributed to taking some of the positive froth out of the fully valued market.
As for the political dynamic, more than a few areas of concern – Iranian election results, the loose screw in North Korea, and the US President and media Star in Chief with his major government initiative du jour – was more than the market could bear.
However, as important as all these factors are, it does appear that the more significant event that will determine the sustainability of the cyclical bull market will be the earnings reports, which begin next month. For 2Q09 earnings will provide the most direct sign that the above consensus economic data generated over these past months (noted above) has interpreted into higher corporate profitability. And it is higher profits that will be needed to justify the expected 1050 for the S&P 500 that current market levels imply.
Investment Strategy Implications
Investors can hoop and holler, wish and hope, and stocks can surge and plunge, but the proof will be in the 2Q09 pudding as to whether the anticipation of economic stabilization and higher corporate profits embedded in a fully valued market come to pass in the form of higher stock prices. Until then, marking time is the more likely outcome.
*Earnings (cash flows) are one of the key fundamental-analysis inputs upon which valuation (and therefore investment) decisions are made. The fundamental premise for the above analysis is that current earnings expectations incorporate the consensus view. Therefore, whenever macro economic reports come in above or below consensus expectations, earnings forecasts will adjust accordingly – with a lag. As economists change their outlook, the individual company analysts, taking their economists’ changed outlook, will follow suit and change their forecasts accordingly. By monitoring the data in real time, an investor can gain a competitive advantage by anticipating changes to earnings forecasts as the above or below consensus reports are filtered into the forecasts.