Not terribly surprising that U.S. stocks are meandering in slightly negative territory today after busting out to new all-time highs. (The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index was off 0.09% at the close in New York.) We’re about to head into the meat of earnings season and a little profit taking undoubtedly makes sense to many of those who caught the recent run.
Tomorrow JPMorgan Chase (JPM) kicks off a run of earnings reports from big banks. Citigroup (C), Wells Fargo (WFC), and US Bancorp (USB) follow on Friday morning. I think that all markets would like from these big banks is a lack of negative surprises. No big drops in revenue; no big increases in bad loans; no downturn in mortgage lending. On the upside investors would like to hear something about dividend increases now that these banks have passed the latest tests from the Federal Reserve.
You won’t have to wait long after bank reports, though, for the earnings that could potentially move the market. On Monday, July 18, IBM (IBM) begins the technology earnings parade with Microsoft (MSFT) following on July 19, Intel (INTC) on July 20, and Amazon (AMZN) on July 21. (You’ll have to hold your breath for another week before Apple (AAPL), Twitter (TWTR) Facebook (FB) and Alphabet (GOOG) report on July 26, July 26, July 27, and July 28, respectively.)
Technology earnings are likely to be a big deal this quarter because Wall Street is expecting the sector to turn in a really dismal quarter with earnings projected to fall 7.2% for the Standard & Poor’s technology sector. Although the bulk of that decline will come from Apple, Wall Street has also been busy cutting estimates for IBM (down to $2.81 for the quarter from projections for $3.44 a month ago) and Microsoft (down to $0.58 from $0.67.)
The damage is likely to be limited because of those cuts in earnings projections–unless earnings are even worse than expected (relatively unlikely since companies and Wall Street typically low-ball projections) or (and this is much more likely) companies deliver gloomy guidance for third quarter and full 2016 earnings. IBM, with its huge overseas presence, will be an important early bellwether on how bad guidance will be on expectations for a strong dollar.