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January 22: Stocks Likely To Take a Breather

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Stocks will likely take a breather today given the mixed earnings picture emerging from a busy reporting day. The  market reached multi-year highs on Friday, but will likely need confirmation from the earnings front to build further on those gains. And the picture emerging from such blue-chip names as DuPont (DD), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Verizon (VZ) and Travelers (TRV) this morning may not be clear enough to help sustain its momentum. Attention now shifts to Google (GOOG) and IBM (IBM) that will report after the close today.

Earnings aside, we have housing related data on tap for release a little later and the Bank of Japan came through with expectations of a higher inflation target and a new open-ended asset purchase program.

On the positive side in this morning’s slew of earnings reports is the reassuring guidance from DuPont. The chemicals and life sciences giant suffered a 66% drop in total quarterly earnings in a tough operating environment, but it’s EPS came in better than expected though revenue came short. But even more significant than the fourth quarter result is the company’s guidance for full year 2013, which is better than current consensus expectations. JNJ also came out with earnings beat and revenue miss, but it’s full-year outlook appears underwhelming. Verizon missed on both the earnings and revenue sides in a ‘noisy’ report with Sandy and pension related charges.

The scorecard as of this morning shows fourth quarter earnings reports from 73 S&P 500 companies or 14.6% of the index’s total membership. Total earnings for these companies are up 1% from the same period last year, with a 61.6% beating earnings expectations and a median surprise of 2.3%. Revenues are up 5.4%, with 56.2% of the companies coming ahead of top-line expectations with a median revenue surprise of +0.7%. This is better performance than what this same group of 73 companies reported in the third quarter.

The composite growth rate for the fourth quarter, where we combine the results of the 73 companies that are out with the 427 still to come, is for a drop of -0.8% in total earnings and an equivalent drop on the revenue side. However, if the current pace outperformance remains in place, the final earnings growth tally for the quarter should be in the vicinity of +2%. A lot will depend on how the Tech sector earnings turn out, which are expected to be down 3.3% from the same period last year. We will get a better sense of the sector’s prospects after seeing reports from Google and IBM.

Existing Home Sales are scheduled for release today at 10:00 AM EST. Our consensus estimate shows this indicator is expected to increase to 5.11 million from the annual pace of 5.04 million reported in November.



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