Earnings season will be critical for stocks after a rough start to 2024

Earnings season will be critical for stocks after a rough start to 2024

Tumultuous Start to 2024: The Stock Market’s Uncertain Path

As 2024 unfolds, Wall Street has entered its fourth-quarter earnings season with apprehension and muted expectations. This period follows a spirited rally at the end of 2023. But the new year has seen notable companies like Apple experience downgrades due to growth concerns. The potential for a March interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve has lessened, contributing to a cautious atmosphere.

Market analysts have observed a more significant reduction in earnings forecasts for S&P 500 companies than usual. This sets a critical stage for the upcoming financial reports, beginning with major banks. The consensus estimates a modest 1.3% growth in S&P 500 earnings compared to the previous year, marking a decline from the near 5% growth in Q3.

Investor Sentiments and Expectations: A Delicate Balance

Morgan Stanley’s chief investment officer, Mike Wilson, emphasizes the importance of these results. He views them as a key indicator of whether investors believe the economy can avoid recession amidst decreasing inflation. Wilson points out that the recent shift in Federal Reserve policy and ongoing macroeconomic uncertainties will significantly shape company strategies and investor expectations.

On a more optimistic note, Goldman Sachs Chief equity strategist, David Kostin, anticipates that the S&P 500 companies will surpass these expectations, benefiting from resilient economic growth and easing cost pressures. Kostin predicts an average earnings growth of 3% for the fourth quarter, backed by recent earnings trends consistently outperforming forecasts.

The Diverse Landscape of Earnings: Winners and Losers

Despite general optimism, not all companies fare equally during earnings seasons. Julian Emmanuel of Evercore ISI points out that the current market climate, fraught with predictions of economic downturns, has made any signs of corporate weakness particularly impactful. Recent reports from companies like Nike, FedEx, and Oracle, which saw significant stock declines after disappointing results, underscore the importance of strategic stock picking.

Bank of America’s projections for the S&P 500 reaching 5,000 by the end of 2024 hinge on the upcoming earnings reports. The firm notes that companies have efficiently managed costs and margins, indicating potential upward momentum.

Deutsche Bank’s chief US equity strategist, Binky Chadha, also expects significant positive surprises, countering the prevailing pessimistic consensus. He acknowledges some downward revisions in earnings estimates but points out that growth and technology sectors, major drivers of the 2023 rally, have maintained stable expectations.

A Season of Critical Insights

The fourth-quarter earnings season of 2024 is poised to provide critical insights into the stock market’s direction amidst a landscape of economic uncertainties and shifting investor sentiments. The outcomes of these reports will reflect the current economic resilience and set the tone for market expectations in the year ahead.

Source: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/earnings-season-will-be-critical-for-stocks-after-rough-start-to-2024-113037699.html