This week is one of the busiest weeks for economic news for the entire year. The first look at third quarter GDP came out on Wednesday and there was an FOMC rate meeting and decision on that same day. The ISM Manufacturing Index and the October Employment report are both due out tomorrow. So far the news has been positive for the stock market and investors will be hoping that two reports on Friday keep the momentum moving in the right direction.
Beyond the overall economic news, we have also seen some better earnings reports from major companies. Apple and Facebook both turned in positive earnings surprises on Wednesday night and AT&T issued a positive surprise on Monday. All of these earnings reports and economic reports are starting to add up and they should be pushing the market higher.
The GDP report showed growth of 1.9% during the quarter and while that was down a tick from the 2.0% growth rate in the second quarter, it was considerably better than the 1.5% consensus estimate from economists. Within the report, the numbers showed that the consumer continues to drive the economy as business investment continues to slump.
The Fed gave consumers a little help on Wednesday afternoon with a third rate cut in the last six months. The move was widely expected and the changes in the statement suggest that this is the last cut for a while. Essentially the Fed did everything everyone expected them to and by following the playbook, the Fed helped boost stocks in the afternoon.
As for the earnings reports, we have seen different companies provide positive surprises and others issue negative earnings surprises, but the current stats show that 78.4% of companies in the S&P that have reported have beat estimates. That is much higher than the historical average of 65%.
Revenue beats are in line with the historical average with 60.9% of S&P 500 companies beating estimates. That pace is right in line with the historical average of 60%.
Something that jumped out at me was from a report issued by Lipper Alpha. In its weekly earnings report, a major shift has occurred in terms of companies issuing upward revisions versus the percentage of companies issuing downward revisions. Downward revisions had been outpacing upward revisions for the last two months, but the upward revisions have flipped the script in the last few weeks and are now outpacing downward revisions.
This is very encouraging as we start looking ahead to the next round of earnings. We still have a great number of companies that have yet to report for the third quarter, but at this point over half of S&P 500 companies have reported.
Heading into this earnings season expectations were pretty low and we are seeing companies come through. If the majority of revisions continue to be to the upside, we could enter the fourth quarter earnings season with much higher expectations. But that isn’t until the first part of January, so there is a lot of time to figure that out. For now, enjoy the boost the market is getting from all the positive news.
If we get the first phase of the trade deal signed, and if we continue to see progress in the trade talks, that should also keep the momentum going. I know I have expressed that I am cautiously optimistic several times and I remain that way. This bull market and this economic expansion are reaching historic levels in terms of how long they have been going on and that concerns me. However, as long as corporate earnings can continue growing and the GDP keeps expanding, investors don’t need to hit the panic button.