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21-04-2012 06:05:00

MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stock Gains Hinge On Apple, Blue-chip Results

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By Wallace Witkowski, MarketWatch

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Corporate earnings will command the attention of investors in the coming week with about one-third of the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average reporting quarterly results.

"We're looking at the big industrials for indicators of global growth," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Economic data in the past week have indicated a cooling off in the manufacturing sector as the Federal Reserve said March industrial production levels were unchanged in February, and manufacturing gauges in the New York and Philadelphia regions declined.

Also, slowing growth in China and a possible recession in Europe threaten to throw cold water on U.S. exports.

Among the big earnings reports beginning Tuesday are Apple Inc. (AAPL) along with Dow components AT&T Inc. (T) , United Technologies Corp. (UTX) , and 3M Co. (MMM).

Other Dow (DJI) components reporting include Boeing Co. (BA) and Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) on Wednesday, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) on Thursday, with Chevron Corp. (CVX), Procter & Gamble Co. (PG), and Merck & Co. (MRK) wrapping up the week on Friday.

Other high-profile earnings include Netflix Inc.(NFLX) on Monday, and Amazon.com Inc.(AMZN) on Thursday.

Of the 106 companies on the S&P 500 Index (SPX) that have reported earnings this season, 83% have reported earnings above consensus Wall Street estimates, according to John Butters, senior earnings analyst at FactSet Research. If that rate holds, it will be the highest upside surprise rate during earnings season in three years, Butters said.

One nonearnings factor that may color the week is the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, where front-runners Nicolas Sarkozy and challenger Francois Hollande are expected to go to a runoff election.

"There may be a little spillover from France but it will be more of the same from earnings," said Luschini. "The numbers have been exceeding by a sizable amount, so either management was good at keeping expectations low or analysts were too cautious."

Luschini said Tuesday and Wednesday will be busy days for economic data and Fed watching. On Tuesday, Case-Shiller home-price data come out, along with April consumer confidence data and March new-home sales. Then, on Wednesday comes durable-goods orders for March, and the Federal Open Market Committee announcement followed by a news conference from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

"Anybody and everybody will be trying to interpret where the Fed's psyche is at the moment," Luschini said.

Financial stocks, which are the best performing sector with regards to earnings expectations this season, will continue to be a focus. Over the past week, the blended earnings growth rate in the S&P 500 improved to 2.2% from 1% in the previous week. That was fueled by a 12.8% blended earnings growth rate from financial firms, according to Butters.

Now that the big banks have reported earnings, focus will turn to their regional counterparts, said Kevin Fitzsimmons, managing director of equity research at Sandler O'Neill.

On Monday, Zions Bancorp (ZION) and SunTrust Banks Inc. (STI) report quarterly results. On Tuesday, Regions Financial Corp. (RF) reports.

That follows a week where Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and Citigroup Inc. (C) met or exceeded earnings. The previous week, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) surpassed Wall Street expectations.

The sector has benefited from a reduction in credit costs and nonperforming assets as well as modest loan growth, and that comes when first-quarter seasonal costs such as payroll expenses are higher and improving margins remain an uphill battle, Fitzsimmons said.

Still, even if strong earnings extend to this week's regional banks, Fitzsimmons doesn't expect a huge rally in the sector.

"The group has had such a run over the last six months, we're not seeing any dramatic stock moves," Fitzsimmons said.

Year-to-date, the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF), which tracks the financial stocks in the S&P 500 Index, is up 17%; and the KBW Bank Index (BKX), which tracks the 24 leading U.S. banks, is up 21%.

On Monday, S&P 500 companies Ameriprise Financial Inc.(AMP), ConocoPhillips (COP), Eaton Corp.(ETN), Hasbro Inc.(HAS), Texas Instruments Inc.(TXN) and Xerox Corp.(XRX) will report quarterly earnings.

Then, on Tuesday, comes reports from Ace Ltd.(ACE), Aflac Inc.(AFL), Air Products & Chemicals Inc.(APD), Amgen Inc.(AMGN), Baker Hughes Inc.(BHI), C.R. Bard Inc. (BCR), C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.(CHRWD), Coach Inc.(COH), DeVry Inc. (DV), Edwards Lifesciences Corp.(EW), FMC Technologies Inc.(FTI), Hershey Co.(HSY), Illinois Tool Works Inc. (ITW), International Game Technology(IGT), Juniper Networks Inc.(JNPR), Lexmark International Inc.(LXK), Life Technologies Corp.(LIFE), McGraw-Hill Cos.(MHP), Nabors Industries Ltd.(NBR), Norfolk Southern Corp.(NSC), Paccar Inc.(PCAR), Parker Hannifin Corp.(PH), Robert Half International Inc.(RHI), Reynolds American Inc.(RAI), Ryder System Inc.(R), Sigma-Aldrich Corp.(SIAL), T. Rowe Price Group Inc.(TROW), Torchmark Corp.(TMK), Total System Services Inc.(TSS), U.S. Steel Corp.(X), Waters Corp.(WAT), and Western Union Co. (WU).

S&P 500 companies reporting Wednesday include Akamai Technologies Inc. (AKAM), Assurant Inc.(AIZ), AutoNation Inc.(AN), AvalonBay Communities Inc.(AVB), Avery Dennison Corp.(AVY), Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.(COG), Citrix Systems Inc.(CTXS), Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.(CLF), Corning Inc.(GLW) Crown Castle International Corp.(CCI), Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. (DPS), Eli Lilly & Co.(LLY), General Dynamics Corp.(GD), Harley-Davidson Inc.(HOG), Hess Corp.(HES), Host Hotels & Resorts Inc.(HST), Hudson City Bancorp.(HCBK), Lorillard Inc.(LO), Northrop Grumman Corp.(NOC), O'Reilly Automotive Stores Inc.(ORLY), Owens-Illinois Inc.(OI), Praxair Inc.(PX), Rockwell Automation Inc.(ROK), Southern Co.(SO), Sprint Nextel Corp.(US-S), Teradyne Inc.(TER), Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.(TMO), WellPoint Inc.(WLP), and Xilinx Inc. (XLNX)

On Thursday comes earnings from Aetna Inc. (AET), Altria Group Inc.(MO), AmerisourceBergen Corp.(ABC), Ball Corp.(BLL), Bemis Co.(BMS), BorgWarner Inc.(BWA), Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.(BMY), Celgene Corp.(CELG), Cerner Corp.(CERN), Cincinnati Financial Corp.(CINF), Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.(CCE), Colgate-Palmolive Co.(CL), Dominion Resources Inc.(D), Dow Chemical Co.(DOW), Eastman Chemical Co.(EMN), Entergy Corp.(ETR), Expedia Inc.(EXPE), Federated Investors Inc.(FII), Fidelity National Information Services Inc.(FIS), Gilead Sciences Inc.(GILD), Goodrich Corp.(GR), Helmerich & Payne Inc.(HP), Invesco Ltd.(IVZ), Iron Mountain Inc.(IRM), Kellogg Co.(K), KLA-Tencor Corp.(KLAC), L-3 Communications Holdings Inc.(LLL), Leggett & Platt Inc.(LEG), Lockheed Martin Corp.(LMT), Mead Johnson Nutrition Co.(MJN), MetroPCS Communications Inc.(PCS), Moody's Corp.(MCO), Mylan Inc.(MYL), Occidental Petroleum Corp.(OXY), PepsiCo Inc.(PEP), PerkinElmer Inc.(PKI), Principal Financial Group Inc.(PFG), Pulte Group Inc.(PHM), Raytheon Co.(RTN), Republic Services Inc.(RSG), Safeway Inc.(SWY), Starbucks Corp.(SBUX), Time Warner Cable Inc.(TWC), Tyco International Ltd.(TYC), United Parcel Service Inc.(UPS), VeriSign Inc.(VRSN), Waste Management Inc. (WM), Western Digital Corp.(WDC), Whirlpool Corp.(WHR), Xcel Energy Inc.(XEL), and Zimmer Holdings Inc. (ZMH)

On Friday comes results from Coventry Health Care Inc.(CVH), Covidien PLC(COV), Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.(GT), International Paper Co.(IP), Newell Rubbermaid Inc.(NWL), Newmont Mining Corp.(NEM), Simon Property Group Inc.(SPG), Ventas Inc.(VTR), and Weyerhaeuser Co. (WY)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 21, 2012 00:05 ET (04:05 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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