Reaping the whirlwind: US stocks knocked by global chaos

Air Force airmen conduct an operational check on a F-16 Fighting Falcon at Balad Air Base, Iraq, in this March 22, 2007 file photo.
Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth | U.S. Air Force
Air Force airmen conduct an operational check on a F-16 Fighting Falcon at Balad Air Base, Iraq, in this March 22, 2007 file photo.

In the face of turmoil in Ukraine, sputtering growth in Europe and now U.S. involvement in Iraq, it's safe to say the macro front is fairly chaotic.

On Thursday, U.S. officials confirmed that military aircraft are conducting limited strikes on the artillery of anti-government insurgents (on top of airdropping humanitarian aid). Add that to the widening Ebola emergency, the resumption of the Israel/Hamas war, and Russia banning food imports—and considering banning overflights.

We know that the global uncertainty is affecting European stocks, but that is now spilling over into U.S. stocks.

I say this because of what I see in earnings. Second quarter reports have been good, but we are not seeing the markets react accordingly. According to Factset, 446 of the S&P 500 have reported as of yesterday; 73 percent were above the mean earnings estimate, a little above the average.

Those companies, however, are not seeing a commensurate gain in their share prices. Companies in the S&P 500 that have reported upside earnings surprises for last quarter have seen, on average, a modest decline in the days immediately before their earnings report, and subsequently after.

That's a reversal from the usual pattern: in the past five years, companies with upside surprises have reported a 1.0 percent increase in their stock price during that comparable period, according to Factset.


1) Asia ended in the red, with the Nikkei down almost 3 percent, its biggest drop in 5 months. It's now down over 9 percent just this month.

Europe was deeply in the red at the start of trading, and yet it turned around quickly on vague reports that Russia was trying to "de-escalate" the conflict. Germany went green just after 8 AM Eastern, then lapsed back into the red.

Global economic numbers were better: China reported a record trade surplusthat featured bigger than expected exports (up 14.5 percent) and smaller than expected imports.

And here in the U.S., there was a nice snap back in second quarter productivity (up 2.5 percent) and labor costs. We need a pickup in productivity to get gross domestic product up. The hope is that companies will begin hiring when they are convinced end user demand is sustainable.

Yet when will that happen? When we seen notable increases in things like durable goods and retail sales, but they have been inconsistent.

2) High yield funds saw $7.07 billion outflows, which was a record for one week. That includes mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs). That's four straight weeks of redemptions.

3) Initial public offerings (IPOs), as ever, had mixed to weak debuts. a) Independence Contract Drilling (ICD), which owns 11 contracted land drilling rigs, priced 10 million shares at $11, at the high end of the $10 to $11 price talk, b) Ryerson Holding (RYI), North America's second largest metals distributor, priced 11 million shares at $11, at the low end of a downward-revised range of $11 to $12, and; c) Texas bank Green Bancorp (GNBC) priced 4.6 million shares at $15, at the low end of the $15 to $17 price talk.

--By CNBC's Bob Pisani

  • Bob Pisani

    A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Wall Street