This week's earnings from Alcoa, says MoneyShow's Jim Jubak, may have started a trend for how the entire season may go and he shares what it could mean for the stock market.
For the week ahead, hey, it's earnings season, and Alcoa, which is traditionally the first company to report, reported after the close on January 8, and it really pretty much sets up the way the whole season, I think, is going to operate. Remember, this is fourth quarter earnings being announced in early January and then extending into February.
Here is the key to this. Alcoa announced that it earned six cents a share, which is exactly what Wall Street had expected. It announced that sales for the quarter were $5.9 billion. That was ahead of the $5.61 billion that Wall Street had expected, so the stock went up. Not a whole lot but, you know, significantly after hours and then a little bit during the next day.
What is interesting today is that it basically went up on the revenue beat, $5.9 billion versus $5.6 billion or so, but even though $5.9 billion is a decline from the fourth quarter of 2011, so you are looking at Wall Street going, hey, this is better than we expected, even though it is still worse than it was last year, and this is good news. I think that tells you how low expectations are for the fourth quarter.
According to analysts, if you look at all of the analysts' projections on S&P earnings for all 500 stocks in the index, the expectations are that earnings will go up just 2.9% this quarter. That is going to be the lowest, slowest rate of increase since 2009. Very low expectations, which means that it is not going to be that hard to beat.
I mean Alcoa turning in six cents is not a difficult bar to jump and I think you are going to find that true for a lot of stocks. The reason for this is that analysts were looking at slowing growth and use the economy as a whole, fear about the fiscal cliff, evidence that you were seeing slowdown again in Europe, all of those things factored into the estimates for the fourth quarter, and so we have, as we go into January, into 2013, we have very low expectations, a market that, in terms of actual price, fairly high but given the fact that expectations for individual stocks are low, it is hard to see earnings season as a whole being the reason that the market would sell off.
I think for that, we are still looking for whatever happens in Washington with the battle over raising the debt ceiling and all that goes with that. Earnings season probably not much of a downer, probably, for individual stocks could be up, but not a whole big move one way or another given how low expectations are.