A number of companies are beating earnings expectations. Unfortunately, it's not doing much for their stock prices.» Read More
Rightly or wrongly, a bevy of companies are likely to blame weak fourth quarter earnings on the government shutdown and the debt ceiling debate.
In third quarter earnings commentary and guidance, several companies in a wide swath of industries have outright warned that the D.C. situation would impact fourth quarter earnings, or at least remarked that it added a measure of uncertainty. And some, such as Stanley Black & Decker and Linear Technology, have lowered their fourth quarter guidance, partially as a result of what happened in Washington.
Companies are "setting the table," said FactSet senior earnings analyst John Butters. Bringing up the government's potential impact now allows management to say "Look, we pointed this out as a potential concern early in the quarter, and now it's happening."
Only a few companies have blamed third quarter weakness on Washington, and with good reason—the shutdown started on Oct. 1, just after the quarter ended.
But after Citigroup missed earnings expectations, CEO Mike Corbat included the D.C. situation on a laundry list of problems, saying on the earnings call that "our results reflect a challenging operating environment, including the slowdown in client activity based on uncertainty regarding Fed tapering, concerns about the effect of a U.S. government shutdown, and forecasts for slowing economic growth, particularly in the emerging markets."
The way people are treating technology companies, it's starting to feel a bit too much like 1999 and 2000, Art Cashin said on Thursday's "Futures Now."
"I do worry a little bit that we're beginning to hear things that are reminiscent of the 1999-2000 period—the number of hits, the number of eyeballs," said Cashin, the director of floor operations for UBS Financial Services.
In the heat of the tech bubble, investors infamously valued site viewers—or "eyeballs"—more highly than revenue. In one of the most dramatic examples of this, Yahoo purchased Web hosting site GeoCities for some $3.6 billion in January 1999—despite the fact that GeoCities' expenses at the time were trumping the minuscule amount of revenue the company was taking in.
Yahoo overlooked the financials in favor of the fact that it was the third-most-visited site on the Internet. But as those visitors steadily disappeared, Yahoo's decision looked the opposite of prescient.
When Cashin surveys the tech landscape today, he similarly hears rhetoric that values users over profits.
"I think if we hold to the old tried-and-true—how many dollars are coming in—then we might be better served," Cashin said. "But people are extrapolating, in some way, in a manner similar to the way they did in 1999-2000."
Many thought that a catastrophic outcome that involved the U.S. hitting the debt ceiling was gold's best hope for a sustained move higher—which left some traders surprised by gold's positive reaction to the deal announcement.
But George Gero, precious metals strategist at RBC Capital Markets, reports that gold open interest fell on the deal even as gold futures rose, meaning that traders were closing their short positions.
(Read more: Wall Street not listening to Washington anymore)
Gero said that people made debt ceiling bets by trading gold and stocks together. "One could have been a hedge against the other."
But now, with the Senate agreeing on a deal and voting about to start, "If you've been using [gold] as a trading vehicle, you want to get out, because there's no more reason to be on the short side of gold," Gero said.
In other words, if you were making a bet on gold and stocks amid the D.C. uncertainty, "You basically want to just square your book now." And for those who were shorting gold on the hunch that it would drop off of a coming deal, squaring their book means closing their short positions.
While investors fret over D.C. brinkmanship as the government gets closer and closer to the debt ceiling, "Dr. Doom" Marc Faber has other concerns on his mind.
"I think the markets will move according other events rather than what is happening in Washington," Faber said Tuesday on CNBC's "Futures Now."
Specifically, the publisher of the Gloom Boom & Doom Report newsletter warns of disappointing earnings, deteriorating technicals, and a decline in consumer confidence.
(Read more: Buffett: Debt limit shouldn't be weapon)
Earnings will disappoint
As companies start to report their third quarter earnings, Faber is getting nervous.
"We're coming into earnings season, and the earnings are likely to disappoint," Faber said.
And because earnings will be weaker than investors anticipate, "the market is not cheap anymore, according to different valuation methods," Faber said.
Indeed, the S&P 500's price-to-earnings ratio, the most commonly used valuation metric, has risen from 17 to more than 19 over the course of 2013.
And because stocks are getting more expensive, "the returns over the next five to 10 years will be very moderate," Faber said.
(Read more: Marc Faber: Apple 'could go bust')
Famed investor Marc Faber believes that Apple is a troubled company making an array of frivolous products—and for that reason could be on the road to bankruptcy.
"This is the kind of stock I'm really not interested in," Faber said about Apple on Tuesday's "Futures Now." "I'm not saying it will go bust," but "it could go bust eventually."
Faber added that it won't go under "tomorrow" or "the day after tomorrow." But the editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report compares Apple to another technology company that's now infamous for moving slower than the times.
"This is kind of like Polaroid of the 1970s," Faber said. After all, Polaroid, like Apple, was founded and driven by a famous innovator who eventually left the company.
"Dr. [Edwin] Land, who was the founder of Polaroid, had more patents under his head than anyone else in the world," Faber noted.
In 1982, Land (who received more patents than any other American save Thomas Edison) left his seat on Polaroid's board, and gave up his research post at the company. In 2001, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy protection, and proceeded to sell off its businesses.
(Read more: Apple snags Burberry CEO as new retail chief)
A swath of U.S. states are getting a big break at the pump, website GasBuddy said on Monday, with retail prices dipping below $3 a gallon for the first time in nearly a year in some areas.
According to GasBuddy—a site where motorists around the country can post and view local gas prices—16 states are seeing major gas price relief. Among them are Texas, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Florida.
In rural Texas, some lucky motorists are getting the rock-bottom price of $2.70 per gallon.
The site added that a handful of other states, including Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, could see similar relief later this week.
Gold dropped $25 in two minutes Friday morning following what appeared to be a single massive sell order, and professional traders are now pronouncing the sale a deliberate attempt to manipulate the market.
At 8:42 a.m. ET Friday morning, a firm appeared to sell 5,000 gold futures contracts "at the market," meaning at whatever price was available. The massive order was more than the market could take at once and led the CME to automatically halt trading for 10 seconds.
Eric Hunsader of Nanex told CNBC.com on Friday that 2,700 contracts were sold, which triggered the halt, and that the remaining 2,300 were sold once the market resumed trading.
(Read more: Gold's plunge blamed on one massive sell order)
Since one futures contract controls 100 troy ounces of gold, and each troy ounce was worth $1,285 at the time of the sale, this party was selling some $640 million worth of gold in one shot. And it overwhelmed the liquidity in the market.
"Anyone with knowledge of the size and volume in the market would absolutely never, ever place a 5,000 [contract] sell [order] at market, because you could not estimate the offset price," said iiTrader CEO Rich Ilczyszyn.
If Ilczyszyn's firm were placing the order, he said, "we generally would piece the order in to work a better price." That's why he believes the trade was "an error."
But Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff, a longtime gold fan, infers darker motives.
"Someone's obviously trying to move the market lower," he told CNBC.com. "A legitimate seller would work a limit over time to get a good price."
Jim Iuorio, managing director at TJM Institutional Services, sees similarities between what happened to gold Friday and what happened Sept. 12, when a big gold sale at 2:54 a.m. ET similarly caused a trading halt and hurt the market.
"There is only one conclusion that seems logical regarding Friday's gold trade and the one from a month ago, and that's that they were designed to manipulate prices," Iuorio said. "They were slightly different, in that the one from a month ago was done when the market was illiquid in order to get the biggest prices movement. Friday's was done around the opening to ensure that there was maximum visibility."
Like the stock market, gold is expected react sharply to the outcome of the debt ceiling impasse. But unlike stocks, gold tends to do well in fear-inducing situations. So if there is no deal on the debt ceiling over the next few days, then gold will rise—but if we get a deal before we hit the ceiling, then gold will drop.
Gold broke major support levels in early Friday trading but failed to follow through to the downside after putting in a low of $1,259.60—the lowest level since July. Investors showed support for the metal as Washington headed into a deadlock, but after it failed to rally when it had every reason to do so, investors fled to better-performing assets.
(Read more: Gold's plunge blamed on one massive sell order)
A huge week for earning is coming up, with companies as diverse as Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Google and GE revealing how much they earned in the third quarter. And some traders worry that the results won't be good.
"To me, 'negative' is probably the word that comes to mind when I look through this week," said JIm Iuorio, managing director of TJM Institutional Services and a CNBC contributor.
As of Friday, 31 S&P 500 companies have reported, and 55 percent of those have beaten earnings estimates, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. On the revenue side, 52 percent have beaten estimates.
And in fact, despite concerns about revenue and earnings growth, S&P 500 operating earnings per share for the third quarter are expected to post a record—and the third record in a row, according to S&P's Howard Silverblatt.
As Silverblatt writes: "We will all, legitimately, complain about slow earnings and sales growth, but in the end Q3 may set a record, which is difficult to argue with."
Gold lost $25 in two minutes on Friday morning, as the gold market experience a massive surge in volume that triggered a halt in the middle of the plunge. The move took gold down to a three-month low, and was felt across the commodity markets. And incredibly, a single sell order could be the culprit.
"It appears to have been an order to sell 5,000 gold futures contracts at market," Eric Hunsader of Nanex told CNBC.com, when asked to explain the swift move at 8:42 a.m. EDT. "About 2,700 went off and tripped the stop logic, halting gold futures for 10 seconds while liquidity replenished. When enough liquidity returned (after 10 seconds), the balance of about 2,300 completed."
CME Group brings buyers and sellers together through its CME Globex electronic trading platform and trading facilities in New York and Chicago.
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