Market Insider

Friday is an important test for the Trump rally

Could bank earnings derail rally?

The start of earnings season could test the Trump rally's endurance, at least in the short term.

Financials, which have led the market's gains, are the first out of the gate with earnings Friday, when the biggest U.S. banks release fourth-quarter results. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo report, as does BlackRock. The S&P financial sector is up 17 percent since Election Day on the promise of higher interest rates and less regulation. Now earnings and their outlooks have to justify the gains.

"Between earnings and jockeying ahead of [Inauguration Day], clearly we think we could see some action in the big-cap names," said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial. Ryan said the market's 19-day streak of shallower than usual moves in the could be setting it up for some bigger move in either direction.

Also important are retail sales for December, expected to show a solid headline gain of 0.7 percent. Excluding autos, the 8:30 a.m. ET number is expected to see a 0.5 percent gain, and on the core, excluding autos, fuel and building materials, it is expected to be up 0.4 percent.

"The big story is retail sales and how does that figure into consumption," said Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO. Lyngen said he believes the retail sales number could be even stronger than the economists' consensus, and that would be a negative for Treasury prices Friday. But that could also boost fourth-quarter GDP.

Stocks floundered Thursday, but recovered from lows, and bond yields were lower. The Dow closed down 63 points at 19,891, after recovering about 120 points from its lows. The S&P 500 was off 4 at 2,270, and it had dipped down to 2,254. The Nasdaq broke a seven-day stretch of setting new highs, to close down 16 at 5,547. The Russell 2000 lost 0.9 percent at 1,361.

"To see strength later in the day is potentially a positive, and today's reversal is nice, given the worry in the market about the uncertainty Donald Trump continues to bring to the table," said Detrick.

The bond market too had its concerns about what the Trump administration will bring, once he's sworn in a week from Friday. The 10-year was at 2.35 percent late in the day, but it had tested the 2.30 area.

"The bulk of the optimism has been priced in and now it's up to the incoming administration to justify," said Lyngen. Markets were concerned that Trump focused on slamming the drug industry over pricing during a press conference Wednesday, rather than detailing his tax and stimulus plans.

Lyngen said the price action in Treasurys is making it clear what the market's priority is — and it wants to hear about tax cuts and stimulus over tariffs and border fights.

"If the administration doesn't prioritize the economic and fiscal parts of the platform first, the idea is it will be harder for Trump to really push through his agenda, and later it becomes more difficult," he said. "If he goes with 'build the wall first,' he'll never get to stimulus or tax cuts."

For the superstitious, Friday is the 13th, and Detrick said stocks on the Fridays that have fallen on the 13th of the month have averaged flattish returns, with a slight 0.02 percent decline since 1928. More often, 57 percent of the time, the S&P has closed higher. However on the last three Fridays that fell on the 13th, the S&P 500 was negative each time and declined an average 0.8 percent.

Detrick said the S&P 500 does look set to make a move. "We're 64 days without a 1 percent drop in the S&P. Sixty-six was the previous longest, in the summer of 2014," he said.

He also said the S&P 500 has not moved in greater than 1 percent range for 19 straight sessions below its long-term average of a 1.4 percent intraday move. The last time it had such a long streak was in December 2014 when it went for 25 days with a less than 1 percent move.

"We're in this incredible range-bound kind of boring market. Under the surface you have tech doing well and small caps lagging. Big caps are evening it out by going sideways," he said.

Earnings are expected to grow by about 4 percent in the fourth quarter, a second positive quarter. Financial companies' earnings are expected to rise more than 14 percent. "We're going to find out real fast if the rally we've had in financials is justified," said Detrick.

Detrick said the divergence in the market should make it a good time to pick out some winners.

He noted Nasdaq's seven-day New Year rally was the best start of a year since 2006. "The longest in a row was 1987 with 10 days," said Detrick.

In other signs the Trump trade is fraying, gold made a run at $1,200 per ounce Thursday. Futures for February crossed above it but settled at $1199.80 per ounce.