Jitters aside, earnings may take their rightful place in trading

Into the futures: Major slate of earnings ahead
Into the futures: Major slate of earnings ahead   

After a treacherous, highly volatile, overall negative weeks for stocks, earnings have had a muted impact on the market's moves. Yet with a massive slate of reports ahead, including results from behemoths like Apple, IBM, Coca-Cola and McDonald's on Monday and Tuesday alone, corporate results and guidance could finally dictate trading.

Amid the market turmoil, "there's been a de minimis focus on earnings. It's affected single stocks, but it hasn't had the typical spin-over effects into other companies and sectors," CovergEx Group chief market strategist Nicholas Colas said. "It certainly hasn't been the usual earnings season so far."

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Thus far, results have looked reasonably good. Of the first 82 S&P 500 companies to report results, 68 percent have beaten earnings estimates and 63 have beaten revenue estimates, FactSet.

While that is below the recent historical average percentage of beats on the earnings side, that is above what investors have come to expect on the revenue side, FactSet senior earnings analyst John Butters reports.

Ultimately, it will likely be revenues that shed light on the state of the global economy—which is particularly important role now that global jitters have shaken risky assets.

"We started the quarter probably a little more focused on revenues than we were on earnings, and now we are even more focused on revenues," said John Traynor, chief investment officer of People's United Wealth Management, which manages $5.5 billion in assets.

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Traynor is expecting good top-line results—and will be especially keyed into consumer discretionary and cyclical names, which are highly levered to the overall economy.

"We've made the case that we believe this U.S. economy is finally breaking out—that we're finally going to get closer to 3 percent growth. We need to see that in the cyclical and retail earnings," he told CNBC.

Watch this key S&P 500 level next week: Trader

Special attention may be paid to the content of the earnings calls this quarter. Colas makes the point that third quarter, guidance becomes particularly important.

"October earnings is when corporations start thinking about the budget for next year, so in the guidance, we'll get a sense of how CEOs and CFOs feel about the back half of the year and 2015," Colas said.

Still, whatever earnings actually bring, traders say that volatility could drop as the actual results come in.

"If you look to some of the stock volatility and weakness that we've seen over the last couple weeks, at least a small component of that is nervousness about earnings," said Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services.

"So this big chunk of earnings being over should take some of the volatility and panic out of the market."


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